Fortunately Yan Pascal Tortelier was available to take over the reigns from an indisposed Yuri Temirkanov, doubtless giving the players a different slant on familiar works.
A rarely played opener by Liadov, his folk-tale Kikimora, highlighted mysterious woodwind, intriguing with charming descriptive effects.
Unusually the concerto was not Russian, but a quintessentially English venture in the shape of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, elegantly performed by the young Dutch artist Quirine Viersen. Music is truly an international language, a heart-warming thought with the three nationalities on stage giving their all for Elgar and a packed house.
Despite a reduced orchestra there were the inevitable balance problems, and curiously long pauses at the end of significant phrases tended to lose the musical thread, creating disconcerting disjointedness in the first movement. Velvety tones of the 1715 Guarnerius cello were perfect for slow movement soul-searching, but a wider dynamic range would have been more appropriate for a 20th century concerto.
Fine double stopping and inevitable nobilmente passages thankfully were not unduly marred by slight orchestral untidiness towards the final bars.
Back on well-known ground, Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony began with great restraint. Technically fine – but had over-exposure for players set in? A massive gap before the second theme lost forward impetus, intended as extra drama perhaps, but verging on the prosaic. Eventual wake- up calls from brass were a great relief.
The third movement’s Allegro Vivace was fast, light and airy. However, the build-up to a delirious end in the march was too early, with little left in the fortissimo store. Dangerously early entries after the lugubrious pauses in the finale highlighted the difficulties for instrumentalists of finding significant beats from a batonless maestro.