HE opened 2024 with an especially poignant Viennese New Year gala on January 1.

And Chief Conductor Kirill Karabits returned to see out the month out with a truly spectacular evening at Lighthouse Poole.

Having flown in from Vienna for the week, it was more than fitting that Karabits should begin this programme with Mozart’s delightful and intimate Horn Concerto, requiring just eight of the players on stage.

Living in the imperial capital, Mozart had contact with a vast number of musicians and this was particularly true of wind players.

But the evening’s eye opener was without question the Violin Concerto No1, Distant Light, by the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks.

The pain and suffering of Latvia bleeds through this staggeringly beautiful piece of work.

Scored just for strings only, it was completed in 1997 and first performed in Salzburg the same year.

This was just a few years after Latvia, along with the other two Baltic states, Estonia and Lithuania, gained freedom from the disintegrating Soviet Union, a freedom they constantly fear losing.

The piece lasting 30 minutes is delicately beautiful, energetic, emotional, mournful and soulful but ultimately triumphant and carries ‘the voice of a once tormented nation.’

It was probably not lost on many in the audience that this heart-wrenching piece carried echoes of what is happening three decades later in Ukraine.

The performance by soloist Vadim Gluzman was mesmerising. He had a full house utterly transfixed.

Dmitri Shostakovich lived through the era of Stalin, was denounced for his music and feared for his life. It is said he kept a bag of warm clothes packed by the front door for when he was sent to Siberia.

He died in 1975 in Moscow.

His Symphony No 15 (his last) written in 1971, was the second half of the concert and is indeed a musical puzzle having been described as an unsolvable enigma. It has fleeting references to the work of numerous other composers including Rossini, Wagner, Beethoven and Mahler as well as his own previous compositions. It is strange, ambiguous and unsettling but ultimately a fascinating and thought provoking experience. But trying to solve the puzzle is almost certainly not the point.