Stepping in for Ben Gernon, this concert propelled Marta Gardolińska into the limelight. Clear from the opening of the Mozart was Gardolińska’s rapport with the players who responded to her neat, undemonstrative gestures with incisive ensemble and sonorous tone. Solemnity gave way to impishness, strings and woodwinds frisky, Gardolińska held back for the first tutti – making volcanic eruption all the more arresting.
Performances of Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto (there are two others) can sometimes be over-indulgent. This was an exception. Those with a sweet tooth, musically speaking, might have been taken aback by this solid account from Nikita Boriso-Glebsky. Technically impressive and with impeccable intonation, he had a slight tendency to gloss over phrases, lingering only rarely and, in the opening movement, pushing the tempo hard so that its lyrical journey felt pressured and unloved. There were some fine moments (runs and arpeggios dashed off with ease) but too often he was over-emphatic. The Adagio brought some respite, Boriso-Glebsky bringing out tenderness without sentimentality yet glowing tone. Gardolińska drew some fabulous pianissimos and sensitivity from the BSO. The violinist’s encore, Fritz Kreisler’s Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice, had its hair-raising pyrotechnics delivered with absolute virtuosity.
The Rachmaninov was generous to a fault. The opening movement (without exposition repeat) unfolded with gradually accumulating tensions, well-judged climaxes integrated into an expansive discourse; however by the recapitulation it began to feel flaccid as if the brakes had been applied too soon. A bracing and vivid Scherzo highlighted opulent string tone, and if tempo-changes felt unstable (and the fugato a little hesitant), the whole was driven by energy and passion. Max Mausen’s subtly expressive clarinet set in motion a spacious Adagio, intensely climaxed, but which stopped just short of leaving you gasping for breath, and the Finale was somewhat episodic; it all blazed gloriously though and left in no doubt that Gardolińska is a highly promising and exciting conductor.