MUSIC / Tension and harmony: Anthony Payne reviews the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta

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The Independent Culture
THE Albert Hall played host to two promenade concerts on Wednesday evening, each a fully fledged programme in its own right. It would be interesting to know how many promenaders possessed the energy to stay for the second concert, after the exhilarating, but emotionally draining nature of the first. This traced a thought-provoking journey from the classicism of Haydn to the high romanticism of Tchaikovsky via a composer who paradoxically was equally indebted to both those traditions, Stravinsky.

The lively demands made by the programme were splendidly met by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under their principal conductor Jerzy Maksymiuk. They opened with a buoyant and stately account of Haydn's Symphony No 85 in B flat. The poised energy of the first movement's vivace, relaxed but waiting to spring, was commanded by both conductor and players, and the work paced forward inevitably to its impetuous finale.

The orchestral sonority was warm and clear, and if the number of string desks was higher than some purists might approve, the large acoustic space demanded them and responded sympathetically to their textures. This was also the case with the more complex details and mixtures in Stravinsky's Violin Concerto. The soloist here was the outstanding Leonidas Kavakos, and he brought to Stravinsky's continuously active, asymmetric rhythms a sense of line and a stringing articulation which were a joy to hear. Maksymiuk and his orchestra supported magnificently, attacking with point and verve, yet always capable of responding to those moments of tenderness which contrast with the concerto's more brittle writing.

The programme was crowned by an electrifying performance of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, one which was true to the work's revolutionary structural and emotional content. The overwhelmingly powerful first movement was driven through tensions, dreams and catastrophes with tremendous symphonic urgency by Maksymiuk, and the orchestra rewarded him with colourfully dramatic playing. The music, despite its familiarity, was somehow being viewed afresh, and countless touches indicated Maksymiuk's sharp response. The brilliant string tremolandos during the finale's second group of variations, for example, so often drowned by the heavy brass's canons, suggested, in Maksymiuk's beautifully achieved balance, that the heavens were ablaze.

After an hour's breathing space we were again treated to excellent fare, as the Bournemouth Sinfonietta brought us a similarly varied programme under their conductor Tamas Vasary. Vasary also displayed his keyboard gifts in a rare performance of the orchestral version of Chopin's Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise which he directed from the piano, bringing a touching fantasy and rhythmic verve to his playing.

But the high point of the concert was a splendid performance of Mozart's Symphony No 39 in E flat. The shadows which occasionally cloud the sunny landscapes of the opening and closing movements drew a most poetic response and when, after that slightest of warnings, turbulent passions erupt in the Andante, conductor and orchestra became dramatically engaged. Textures were clear, and the rhythmic undertone flexible and purposeful.

Next there was an atmospheric performance of Honegger's Pastorale d'ete, drowsy in its innocent charm, and finally Vasary returned to his roots with an impetuous and emotionally resonant interpretation of Kodaly's Dances of Galanta.