Solti Award-winner James Feddeck was making his debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He produced an imposing, no-nonsense and intelligently sculptured account of Brahms’s Tragic Overture, his unfussy direction and clarity of purpose bringing cohesion to its outlines. The BSO responded with playing of deep commitment and sonorous string tone richly supported by brass and woodwinds. Whether the mood was noble or mysterious Feddeck always had an ear for balance.
Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto was given in its original version rather than Siloti’s cut and emendated edition. In this persuasive account the much-criticised padding all-but-disappeared in a performance that underlined emotion and drama. The structural defects could easily be overlooked given Alexei Volodin’s compelling rendition. There were odd moments of muddy tone in the opening movement but Volodin’s cascading octaves were delivered with devastating accuracy and the passion he brought to the big cadenza was persuasive. Feddeck deftly blended grand statements with gentle lyricism.
Musicianship of great warmth characterised the soulful central movement in which Amyn Merchant (violin) and Jesper Svedberg (cello) took star turns with Volodin, with no sense of indulging chocolate-box romanticism. In the Finale, a high-wire act, Volodin played with breathtaking scintillation; there was power, eloquence and humour rolled into one. This Concerto could not have had better advocates.
Following the interval the masterpiece that is Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony was given with complete assurance. With Feddeck stroking the air with gestures that belied the first movement‘s desolation and cumulative tensions, he fashioned an account that was rhythmically taut yet flexible, and the eerie passage for bassoon loomed out of furtive string textures. The movement’s metrical and tempo transformation was smoothly achieved and built towards a thrilling conclusion. No less atmospheric was the Andante where pizzicatos and velvet woodwinds and horns breathed vivid life into its elusive discourse. The Finale was distinguished by fabulous pianissimo strings (with some mezzo-piano page-turning!), a heart-easing transition into the majestic ‘swan’ melody and affirmative closing chords.