MUSIC critics should probably never admit to feeling guilty, but I always sense that if I lie it will be spotted.

I feel I should be tacking four stars on to the head of this review; and I suspect the majority of the near-capacity audience at the BBC SSO's concert on Thursday night would agree.

But it was a concert that was good in some parts, and less effective in others. Conductor for the night was Alexander Vedernikov, former music director of the Bolshoi, making his concert debut with the orchestra (they did a studio recording years ago). He was superb in his brilliant opener, Szymanowski's cracking Concert Overture, a Straussian, Don Juan-type piece with a strong chromatic hint of the exotic Szymanowski to come. This piece, should be in the mainstream repertoire; and the SSO's blazing performance underlined that view.

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Vedernikov seemed less at ease in Chopin's First Piano Concerto, where he let the first movement sprawl and failed to bring a bounce to the dance of the finale. All of this left pianist Angela Hewitt a bit isolated: only in the magical slow movement, and particularly the late stages of that movement, could she make it, poetically, her own. And what beauty she charmed from the piano in those moments.

And I couldn't honestly say Vedernikov had his finger on the pulse of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony from beginning to end. The first movement was short on forensic detail, the second a bit five-square, the third a bit clunky, with the failing heartbeat of the finale rather hastily-dispatched. Fine SSO playing throughout.

HHH