There is much to admire in Rachmaninov’s First Symphony – unfairly deemed a ‘Cinderella’ work in respect of its disastrous premiere at the hands of Glazunov – and was here given a sure-footed account under Kirill Karabits that periodically blazed with sweeping conviction. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra responded to its dark colours with warmth and gusto, notably in the first movement’s development, characterised by intensity of purpose, Karabits encouraging power. The ensuing Allegro, subtlety coloured, was scintillating, urgent and breathless: just a pity that the gathering momentum never found climatic releasing – everything ready for a heavenly departure but remaining stubbornly earthbound. The Larghetto was atmospheric, sepia-coloured and enhanced by the sheer beauty of tone from violas and clarinets. Soaring melodic lines don’t make too many appearances in this Symphony, but they briefly lit up the Finale, as did a well-timed gong-stroke. Emotional tumult was superbly realised, dancing Cossacks evoked, imperial grandeur suggested and this glorious Technicolor movement closed with a wonderfully pugnacious explosion of timpani.
Following the interval came a riveting account of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, given by an inspired Nemanja Radulović whose rapport with Karabits and the BSO was outstanding, taking us on a journey marked as much by spontaneity of utterance as the violinist’s exhilaration. What was indisputable was his variety of timbre, flawless intonation and spotless execution, and his capacity to cherish a phrase with fabulously incorporated rubato and refinement of colour. The opening movement traversed wistful dreaming and grandeur, the ‘Canzonetta’ at times seemed to stand still while Radulović poured his soul into it, and the Finale bristled with irresistible passion, dashed off fearlessly, the end only narrowly avoiding a car crash as soloist and orchestra were on the brink of their techniques.
After which Caprice bohémien seemed almost an intrusion. Yet, Karabits and the BSO summoned ample energy to draw out the variety of mood and colour in this fascinating showpiece whose kinship with the First Symphony became increasingly clear. Cellos and double basses (and gentle rhythmic timpani) set in motion the striking opening bars, dark with import that broadens to an expansive and richly opulent score with plenty of accumulating interest notwithstanding a reliance on repeated motifs. Karabits steered the music towards an impressive climax liberating earlier tensions and underlining with flair the Gypsy associations.