Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Armenian Fireworks

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Karayev, Khachaturian, TchaikovskyNemanja Radulović (violin), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole, 7.12.2016. (IL)

Karayev – The Seven Beauties Waltz
Khachaturian – Violin Concerto in D minor
Tchaikovsky – Suite No.3 in G

This was another adventurous programme very much appreciated by an enthusiastic audience.

Kara Karayev (1918-1982) was an Azerbaijani composer, teacher and folklore authority, regarded as something of an artistic dynamo. His Seven Beauties Waltz seemed to reinforce such a notion. It was more Ravel in La Valse mode than a Johann Strauss bonbon. Karabits took this dark, melodramatic, wayward music—even at one point bordering on the hysterical—by the throat to deliver an exhilarating, exciting ride. BSO audiences are promised more of Karayev’s Seven Beauties from Karabits at a forthcoming Sunday afternoon concert in Bournemouth’s Pavilion on January 15th.

Nemanja Radulović strode on to the stage looking, judging by his huge shock of black hair and black boots, as though he was supposed to be leading some colourful hard rock band. (Perhaps this is part of his persona when he plays with and directs his ensemble “The Devil Trills”?) Whatever, as soon as he raised his instrument, all these associations were dispelled, for we were spellbound by his gorgeous, compellingly silvery tone and his extraordinary virtuosity. Khachaturian’s glittering Violin Concerto is melodious and lyrical, sharing its appeal with the similarly romantic music of the composer’s ballets Spartacus and Gayaneh. There are some magical moments in this lovely work. For instance, at one point in the Andante sostenuto middle movement there is a ravishingly beautiful episode: the solo violin plays soulfully, supported by softly playing strings, while horns, in unison, play pianissimo above harp ostinato figures.

The orchestral layout for this concert was arranged to reflect the tastes and conventions of a by-gone age when Late Romantic music was in flower. Violins were ranged left and right on the conductor’s either side, cellos positioned centre in front of him, double basses switched to a semi-encirclement to rear left, and so on. Interestingly, Tchaikovsky was working on his infrequently performed Concert Fantasia for piano and orchestra at the same time as his Suite No. 3, in 1884. The Fantasia was intended to be a piano concerto, the Suite a symphony. Material for one found its way into the structure of the other. The first three movements of Suite No. 3 are lovely melodic inventions but it is the very substantial fourth movement, Theme and Variations, that is the highlight. Karabits shaped a very memorable performance, especially the grand finale of the Variations that took on an 1812-like grandeur.

A wonderful concert in a season that is proving to be one of the most rewarding in the Orchestra’s rich history.

Ian Lace

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