What a joy to hear Laurence Jackson again. Barely six months after the CBSO’s former concertmaster moved to Australia he was back on his old stamping ground as the soloist in a concert planned long before he left. He may not have the swaggering glitter of some violinists (he’s too sensitive a musician to engage in vulgar histrionics), but his sweetness of tone and effortless technique are qualities many would die for.
Rather than a full-blown concerto we had to be content with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a demanding enough substitute technically, if somewhat blighted by its mundane thematic material. No matter: given the intelligence and beauty of Jackson’s playing – and the nuanced handling of the orchestral score under CBSO Assistant Conductor Alpesh Chauhan – most of the work’s mawkish sentimentality was avoided (the duet passage between Jackson and flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic was particularly delightful) while the sparkling scherzo and decorative conclusion held several charms.
And Jackson’s account of Dvořák’s Romance in F minor was delivered with even greater subtlety, matched by a felicitous accompaniment full of scrumptious detail.
Indeed, Chauhan’s unfussily precise direction (and a usefully eloquent left hand) consistently brought out the best from the CBSO players. Dvořák’s Othello Overture, with a wonderfully spacious opening and good ‘edge’ to the strings, had several fine touches in response to its narrative content; and the titular symphony of the programme – Mendelssohn’s Fourth, of course – was thrown off with supercharged energy, excitingly accurate string playing, and a finale that went at a terrific lick without dropping a stitch.
So – a sunny, tuneful afternoon all round. Pity about the deluge that greeted our departure.