When it comes to painting pictures in music Andris Nelsons is in his element. Liadov’s tone poem The Enchanted Lake, the magical, ravishingly played opener to Saturday’s concert, was so delicately defined you could almost see diaphanous forms emerging from the orchestral mists.
And in his support for Nikolai Lugansky in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 3 Nelsons was a perfect listener, matching like-for-like detail and putting the CBSO – especially its fabulous woodwind principals – on an equal footing with the pianist.
Lugansky began (correctly) in a deceptively nonchalant way, gradually assuming centre stage before erupting in a dazzling first-movement cadenza.
His was a fresh, muscular reading with an edginess that grabbed the attention throughout but allowed little room for sentimentality, and in the thrilling powerhouse finale of pile-driving chords and glittering runs made the audience delirious with excitement.
By comparison Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony seemed quite benign, although Nelsons’ approach, strong on melodic thrust and texture, had an expressive directness which, to judge from their responsiveness, clearly found favour with the CBSO players.