Running from a retro Bach arrangement to a Gerald Barry premiere by way of four solo violinists, this patchwork programme was meant to be the BBC Symphony Orchestra's contribution to the Genius of the Violin Festival. When the festival fell through, the BBC still needed the concert for its own season. The title wasn't just opportunistic: the festival grew up around the Yehudi Menuhin competition for young violinists; one of the soloists was a prizewinner; and the other three were all pupils at the Yehudi Menuhin School.
The last three confirmed the school's image as a hothouse, but the most simply spectacular of the players, Jennifer Pike, didn't study there. Equipped at 16 with phenomenal tuning, pace, control of timbre and range of dynamics, she brought the house down with Saint-Saëns's Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. Her playing had two main shades of character, fast or sultry, but she has confidence and time to develop.
Alina Ibragimova and Nicola Benedetti, on either side of 20, had contrasting ways with Bach's Double Violin Concerto: the former quick, edgy and sensitive, the latter suave and more conventionally lyrical. Benedetti took the first part boldly, but it was Ibragimova's finespun phrasing and judgement of balance that caught the ear.
Tasmin Little was ideal to represent the Menuhin School's alumni. She is a true successor: international star, enthusiastic chamber player, and now conducting, too. She played the Elgar Concerto, with which Menuhin made his name in his teens, and put her own forthright, unhesitant stamp on the music. With the fearless Finnish conductor John Storgards willing to put clarity of counterpoint and forward movement before introspective lingering, a momentum developed that made the quick music uncommonly exhilarating.
Stokowski's arrangement of a Bach solo Prelude, mostly for massed violins in unison, made a bracing overture. As for Barry's Day, a BBC commission for string orchestra, even this quirky composer couldn't have gone further against expectations. Tiny plucked figures developed amid long silences. The "payoff" was a tripping series of bowed, Handel-like chords. At two points, a single note passed from one instrument to another and back again. The audience didn't have a clue what it was all about: this was the wrong context for Barry's peculiar poetry, and on radio it will be almost impossible to grasp.Reuse content