Can music-making be too beautiful? Yes, when it is meant to sound anguished – and Ukrainian soloist Valeriy Sokolov was at times close to crossing the line in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1.
This 1955 work typically reflects oppressive times in Russia, and Sokolov’s playing in the opening nocturne sometimes seemed almost too loving in its half-tones.
But he pulled back from the brink, and in the third movement’s mighty passacaglia he achieved all the necessary trenchancy, even while revelling in his technical facility. That and the finale blew doubts away.
The BSO played as potently for veteran conductor Kees Bakels as it has for others in Shostakovich performances this season, and he then directed a brisk, vibrant account of Beethoven’s fifth symphony.
Here he had the trombones standing almost throughout the finale, in recognition of their pioneering role in symphonic history at this point. A gimmick? Yes, but it did sharpen their impact.
The woodwind choir shone in the slow movement, as had Rebecca Kozam on cor anglais in Kikimora, Liadov’s evocation of a tiny witch from Russian folklore.