Elgar’s In the South – long associated with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra since Constantin Silvestri’s 1968 recording –was given an impassioned account, Kirill Karabits galvanising his forces to produce a glowing picture-postcard of sweeping panoramas, grandeur and tenderness, the music’s pugnacious and elegiac elements merging seamlessly, so too well-judged tempos, the players gripped by anesprit de corps. Tom Beer’s wonderful viola-playing in a moonlit ‘Canto popolare’ brought a lump to the throat (with magical strings and harp) and from then on Karabits kept firm control of mounting tensions, closing with an uplifting peroration, as majestic as I’ve heard anywhere.
Nikolai Rubinstein thought Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto as “unplayable and worthless”. Simon Trpčeski gave the lie to that in no uncertain terms and, like a conjuror, brought to life this old warhorse in a spellbinding performance. Trpčeski impressed with his remarkable command – from fearlessly big-boned octaves to finely-grained passage work, delivered with devastating accuracy. The first-movement cadenza was something special, a wonderful juxtaposition of lace-work delicacy and an “up and at ‘em” approach that was as startling to watch as to hear. From its imperious opening the BSO was obligingly supportive, Karabits providing tremendous momentum. Flute and oboe made eloquent contributions in the Andantino, as did two cellists, Trpčeski enjoying himself in the quicksilver Prestissimo. The Finale drew fresh virtuosity, a seismic climax and runaway finish. There followed a snippet from Tchaikovsky’s A-minor Piano Trio lovingly crafted by Trpčeski, Amyn Merchant and Jesper Svedberg.
Having performed and recorded both of William Walton’s Symphonies, the latter issued recently (review-link below), Karabits was now returning to the First. The BSO met its challenges full on, the strongly-defined malevolence, tenderness and nobility superbly realised. Karabits has an instinctive feel for tension and release and steered the first movement’s feverish eruptions with infinite care, via cameo appearances from bassoon and viola, flute and cello, and jazzy brass. The Scherzo was a lithe, dancing animal and, if not always possessed with venom or a Presto tempo (the malizia marking somewhat underplayed) it was executed with polish and was, on occasion, pulse-raising. The haunting, melancholic Andante was tellingly evocative, the bluesy woodwind-writing silky smooth with consoling strings adding warmth and lustre to this lament. The Finale was cleverly integrated and played with exemplary panache, a fitting end to the BSO season.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- Karabits records Walton’s Symphonies