Music: Bournemouth SO / Yakov Kreizberg The Anvil, Basingstoke

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The Independent Culture
Last week, Yakov Kreizberg gave his first concerts as principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra: a programme of Webern, Mozart and Brahms first heard in Poole on Wednesday - from where it was broadcast live on Radio 3 - and in Basingstoke the following night. As self-effacing as when I last heard him, this most lean and serious-looking of conductors appears the very opposite of what audiences expect of the modern maestro. Typically, he chose not the expected Brahms symphony to set his seal on the proceedings, but the composer's Second Piano Concerto, in which Peter Donohoe was the soloist.

Last April, when he was principal conductor elect, Kreizberg made things additionally hard for himself by using an anonymous-sounding 20th-century score - by Ernst Krenek - as his calling card. Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op 6, is a better work but, despite its brevity, seemed to endear him to the BSO's audiences little more successfully. I admire, however, a conductor not only prepared to champion difficult, unfashionable music, but also one with the skill to conjure a performance of such chiselled brilliance and subtlety of timbre at such an early stage of acquaintance with an orchestra that scarcely plays such music every day. And there was a real sense, too, of this music's origins in the Viennese Romantic tradition.

Kreizberg has made much of his intention to revitalise the earlier, classical Viennese heritage that the BSO, in common with many other regular symphony orchestras, has rather neglected of late. The performance of Mozart's 39th Symphony here suggested what he's after. Using an almost full complement of strings (only a few less than in the Webern, but then the BSO's string section isn't large), he nevertheless avoided any old-fashioned heaviness. At its best - in the repartee of the minuet and trio, and the nicely judged differences in the repeat of the finale's second part - it proved very engaging. In Basingstoke things seemed more relaxed, though occasionally less precise, than in Poole. But, as last April, I found Kreizberg's overall approach somewhat cold and lacking in atmosphere.

Like Kreizberg, Donohoe is a superb technician with an unfortunate tendency to make even - perhaps especially - the most expansive ritardando sound as though it had been prepared with the aid of a calculator, as he showed to particularly distressing effect in the Brahms Intermezzo he played as an encore. There was still something clinical about the early stages of the Second Concerto, from the rather pedestrian opening horn solo to a refusal to let the lighter side of the second movement really take flight. Later on, however, it seemed to catch more of the magic of the slow movement than the Poole performance - with the cello solo played by Timothy Walden with genuine spontaneity - and also the playfulness of the finale, occasional throwaway phrase endings and all.

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