The BBC SSO opened its weekend of free concerts – Alive with Music – with a programme geared at lovers of great tunes.
For it was all Tchaikovsky, with the added bonus of having a Russian conductor and soloist, Alexander Titov and pianist Dmitri Alexeev.
The crowning glory of this concert – also broadcast live on Radio 3 – may have been Titov’s gorgeously-paced interpretation of the Fifth Symphony, but the run up to that displayed all the same inherently Russian traits, not least a veiled darkness colouring the emotional highs of both Tchaikovsky’s Overture: Romeo and Juliet and the “Piano Concerto No 1”.
In the Overture, what may have seemed uncomfortable at first – jilted entries and a lack of warmth in the wind ensemble – soon grew into something more soulful and expressive. Titov drew an increasingly luscious tone from the strings and definitive character from the winds, that shaped the climaxes with an inevitability that heightened their natural and familiar forcefulness.
Alexeev’s account of the Piano Concerto was a triumph of the big picture. For despite the initial splashiness, the sheer power and shapeliness of his playing captured the cut and thrust of this popular piece, exploring the tapestry of moods that characterise the music, and ultimately delivering a powerful and exhilarating vision of it.
And finally, Titov’s thrusting version of the Fifth Symphony, and a performance seething with energy, glowing in tunefulness, and loaded with an injection of heady Russian pathos that only they truly know how to handle.