The most recent concert in the Bournemouth Symphony’s livestreamed series from the Lighthouse in Poole marked the return to the orchestra of Polish-born Marta Gardolińska, the BSO’s former Young Conductor in Association (from 2018 to 2020). And, on this showing she is very much an artist to be reckoned with. Her programme, carefully structured, flanked Liadov’s tone poem The Enchanted Lake with Schubert’s Third Symphony and Shostakovich’s Ninth, bringing the two symphonies into telling proximity – each is to some extent driven by a sequence of woodwind solos that effectively dictates its thematic content.
Both were superbly done. Gardolińska’s understanding of the balance between grace and energy in Schubert’s Third was wonderfully acute, as she propelled the first movement, with its gleeful clarinet solos, excitedly forward and brought out the nostalgic undertow of the slow Allegretto and the elan of the scherzo-cum-waltz. The tarantella finale, with its whirling, almost obsessive rhythmic figurations, was thrilling in its precision, really sweeping you away.
That same exactitude and exhilaration characterised Shostakovich’s Ninth. Compact, tautly classical in structure, and sardonic in tone, it was written in 1945 shortly after the end of the second world war, and confounded its first audiences who expected a grandiose, lofty celebration of Soviet triumph. Gardolińska’s interpretation emphasised its lurching contrasts and disarming ambiguities of mood. The juxtaposition of banality and swagger in the first movement, with its impish piccolo phrases, was finely judged. The way the bassoon twists away from grief towards hollow mockery in the finale was chilling. The work itself has often been downgraded in favour of Shostakovich’s symphonies that came before and after it, but this was a reminder of just how fine a piece it is.
Liadov’s extraordinary, reflective miniature, meanwhile (it lasts around seven minutes) sounded exquisite with its coolly sensual textures, haunting thematic material, and sense of mystery – the still centrepiece of a focused and engaging evening, finely performed.
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