Alas, "dragging" might best describe the effect of Marin Alsop's effortful reading of this glitzy curtain-raiser. This is a sleeker, far more audacious piece than he had us believe. This is Madame Mao on Madison Avenue, all shantung silk and vampish impudence. It's her cultural revolution.
But Alsop was way too circumspect. The band sounded ungainly, the shimmying string departures carried little insouciance, the rhythms didn't tantalise. Even those itchy final moments in the percussion failed to raise a smile.
But, as the warm-up for Corigliano's overheated concerto, it was a nice idea. Corigliano deserved his Oscar for François Girard's The Red Violin. He wields a mean orchestra, and delights in colouristic drama - emotive contrasts, freakish exclamations, grandiloquent climaxes. The storyboard is there in the music.
Joshua Bell carried the work's spirit through the time and space of three centuries, indulging its flights of fancy, weathering its pyrotechnical storms. He was amazing. Corigliano acted out every measure from his seat in the stalls. But, for all that, the result struck me more forcefully than ever as all surface and no soul.
Unfortunate, perhaps, that the great Shostakovich First Violin Concerto - given the next night by the BBC Philharmonic under Vassily Sinaisky - is everything the Corigliano aspired to be, and more. The soloist - the hugely promising 20-year-old Armenian, Sergey Khachatryan - impressed with his modesty and emotional restraint. His soulful fragility was as beautiful as it was moving. The sound is as yet small, and he may in time take the work's wilder extremes closer to the wire. The great transitional cadenza from slow movement to finale, from resignation to defiance, must at least convey a sense of the individual overwhelmed by inexorable force. Khachatryan really can play this concerto. One day it will play him.
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