Tchaikovsky's Fifth - CBSO at Symphony Hall by David Hart *****

With a Russian violinist and Russian conductor in Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, and an orchestra adept at playing in any musical language, this was a concert which promised to sound, if nothing else, stylistically authentic.  But it went much further than just ticking boxes.
For example Stanislav Kochanovsky (here making his UK debut, so full marks to the CBSO for spotting a genuinely major talent) let much of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 unfold in an almost intuitive fashion, allowing space for important solos – Oliver Janes’ dark opening clarinet, Elspeth Dutch’s mellow horn in the Andantino – to blossom.
String tuttis throughout were also finely drawn and telling brass contributions expressively disciplined.  And the way Kochanovsky gradually increased the impetus of the finale, so it ended with a genuine feeling of culmination, was particularly well handled.
Even more impressive was the Janáček ‘Taras Bulba’ Rhapsody we heard earlier. Kochanovsky’s clear, precise direction (long baton like an extended finger, elegant left hand, definitely no sweaty histrionics) allowed this sinewy, urgent score to reveal its sonic splendours – edgy strings, tolling bells, wailing and screeching clarinets, angry timps et al – in stunning high-definition clarity.  What a terrific, often overwhelming impact it made.
In a quite different way so did Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, thanks to the charismatic (and occasionally unbuttoned) playing of Sergej Krylov.  His sweetly lyrical opening Andantino became almost fervid as it took flight, and the unbridled energy of the Scherzo movement – lots of foot-stamping and bow hairs flying free – was something to marvel at.
The finale may be a bit of a mishmash, but at least the magical long coda stops it becoming a conventional romp, so Krylov gave us Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 for an encore.  More fireworks (and a few clinkers) ensued, which of course the audience thought was marvellous.
David Hart

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