Bartók: Dance Suite, Barber: Violin Concerto, Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, leader Amyn Merchant
Kirill Karabits: Conductor
Nemanja Radulović: Violin
THIS concert of 20th-century music saw a deepening of the love affair between the Lighthouse audience and the BSO’s charismatic artist in residence, Serbian violin virtuoso Nemanja Radulović. With his huge barely-controlled afro, tight leather trousers and knee-length boots, Radulović is constantly on the move, ducking and weaving, stamping and twisting, turning away from the audience frequently to interact with the orchestra or simply to listen to them when he is not playing. And when he does play, one is impressed not so much by the bogglingly-confident technique, but the sure artistic judgement in harnessing his formidable abilities to serve the music.
The Barber concerto, written in the early 1940s, is a lyrical, richly romantic piece with some instantly-memorable bitter-sweet themes. Radulović lived every note with rapturous concentration. At the start of the second movement he turned to listen to Edward Kay’s warm and poignant oboe before sweeping the audience away with passionate developments of the music. It showed in microcosm the warm and respectful partnership of all the musicians on the platform.
Characteristically, Radulović avoided a show-boating solo encore, opting instead to involve nine orchestral string players in joining him in a helter-skelter gypsy-influenced piece. The applause was long and loud, topped off by the award of a red rose from a grateful fan. It was the least he deserved.
Radulović has been an inspired choice as this year’s artist-in-residence. Book now to hear his final concert, a recital of Bach, Richard Strauss, Prokofiev and Wienianski on Wednesday 8th March at the Lighthouse.
Topping and tailing the Barber, the BSO played two pieces which gave the stars in every section of the BSO their own chances to shine in a range of solos. Bartók’s Dance Suite, premiered in 1923, opened the concert, putting an immediate spotlight on Alistair Young’s piano, an important orchestral instrument in all three pieces on the programme. Tammy Thorne’s extended bassoon solo quickly followed, and as the piece unfolded our admiration grew for Bartók’s accessibility, variety and inventiveness as a composer. A perfect appetiser.
After the interval came the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, written in the early 1950s. Less well known than the Bartók piece of the same name, it deserves to be played at least as often. Fresh and original, constantly creating ear-catching effects by re-mixing the familiar orchestral ingredients in novel and unexpected ways, this was a perfect conclusion to a memorable evening, presided over by the smiling but self-effacing Kirill Karabits.