THIS month has seen the BSO return to something like normality for the first time since Covid arrived. The whole orchestra is on the stage, with no social distancing between the musicians, or between the audience in the stalls.

For the second performance of the autumn season, the BSO appropriately chose material that would really fill the concert hall (and the sitting rooms of online viewers): a programme of great music by American composers.

Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring began the evening. Under conductor Kirill Karabits, the orchestra deftly moved between the music’s quiet, pastoral passages, its nods to early American hymns and its passages of square dance music and frenetic fiddling.

Then came something terrific: Valeriy Sokolov joining the BSO for Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, a piece which climaxed in a dizzying display of technique from the soloist and the entire orchestra. As it finished, the audience was already reacting with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for the end of an evening.

The second half of the programme was devoted to George Gershwin’s Catfish Row, a suite containing most of the famous tunes from his American folk opera, Porgy and Bess. The languid Summertime, the jaunty I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin and the frenetic pieces for the action of the plot were all superbly done – but the BSO’s strings filling the hall with the gorgeous melody of Bess You Is My Woman Now gave us the kind of beautiful moment that music lovers need after all those lockdowns.

The ovation for conductor and orchestra was long and loud, as though to tell them just how much evenings like this have been missed.

  • The concert is available online until November 12.