Emerging from the Guildhall to news of atrocities in Paris, it was impossible to escape the thought that terrorism, whether state-sponsored or motivated by personal hatred, is at the heart of much of Shostakovich’s most powerful music.
His first cello concerto was not inspired by specific shocking events (as the 11th symphony, stunningly played two weeks earlier, apparently was) but evokes a suffering all the more potent for being universal.
The solo cello tone, often high in its register, was often deliberately desolate in playing by Steven Isserlis that was inward and intense but never exaggerated.
All these qualities were most notably and powerfully evident in the extraordinary third movement, an extended cadenza.
The soloist’s control of dynamics was mesmerising throughout, with Nicolas Fleury’s confidently dramatic horn interjections no less striking.
BSO principal conductor Kirill Karabits directed a crisp, robust and sometimes skittish account of Prokofiev’s Sinfonietta, and a big-boned one of Haydn’s final symphony, No 104, which also had endearing charm in the andante. The finale began grandly and ended in sprightly style.