Review: BBC Philharmonic ****

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Leeds Town Hall

It started out struggling to find its way into Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, and ended with a performance of his hypnotic Bolero that must have come close to Health and Safety’s permitted level of decibels.

The BBC Philharmonic were appearing with their newly appointed chief conductor, Juanjo Mena, in a programme of music inspired by his homeland of Spain.

That the Rapsodie proved as illusive as ever stemmed from his reluctance to play around with tempos in the first three movements, the very ordinary sounding woodwind section not helping.

Then came a musical genius, violinist Renaud Capucon, who gave a performance of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole marked by quicksilver lightness and a pure element of fantasy. His intonation was immaculate, the violin, once owned by the legendary Isaac Stern, singing eloquently for him as he swept aside all of the work’s technical hurdles.

Debussy’s Iberia, much helped by atmospheric sounds from the percussion, was magical, and made a perfect foil for a Bolero that opened a degree too quick; had a few blips in the early woodwind playing; moved up a gear with the entry of the brass and the jazzy trombone solo, and, with the rhythm now rock steady, the final assault was shattering.

BBC Philharmonic, Sheffield City Hall, March 17, 0114 278 9789.