Some sort of overture would have been welcome to start this DSO morning programme – Force of Destiny, Merry Wives of Windsor, Oberon... too many short excellent pieces going for nought these days in concerts – so it was straight into Brahms’s Violin Concerto, Carlos Miguel Prieto summoning a spacious, somewhat solemn introduction, only livening – quickening with a vengeance – when Christian Tetzlaff entered, almost with an impatient put-down to those first few minutes. From there the music flowed, if not without the occasional scratch, off-note, angularity or thinness of tone from the soloist, and the first movement had greater volatility than usual, unsettled in the wrong sense at times, which was carried into Joachim’s cadenza for which too many camera angles were found. The slow movement was of expressive poise, heralded by Alex Kinmonth’s silken oboe solo, and the Finale fiery, Tetzlaff in venomous contact with his violin. His Bach encore, something slow and soulful, was altogether more elevated and compelling.
If the Brahms was at times forced and harried, memorable previous ones not ripped up, then Prieto’s reading of Beethoven’s Fifth was stimulating, not rushed through as is all-too-common for Beethoven’s music these days – therefore, a first-movement with thrust that was also aligned to lyrical aspects, the latter shaped with the full length of the bow, then an Andante (a virtual attacca) that avoided the con moto marking for something full of expressive song, tailored dynamically and with the martial episodes integrated, the DSO very responsive with top and subsidiary lines, subtly delineated ... Prieto continued into the shadows then swiftness of the Scherzo – but did he steal the thunder of Beethoven’s linking it to the Finale? – and when we reached the latter, through mysterious means, it blazed majestically, a perfect Allegro, its stature emphasised by the exposition repeat, and we got to know that trombones were only now to be heard. Prieto didn’t coast the Symphony to C-major victory, not the greatest struggle though, retaining dignity, weight and detail; he may today be in the minority for so doing in this music but he is also in the supremacy.