Shchedrin was there to share the accolades with the soloist and conductor. It must have been like a dream come true, hearing one of his latest works (it was composed just a couple of years ago) played with such virtuosity. And there was more. After the concerto, Vengerov reappeared, stole a chair from the second violins, brought it centre stage, sat himself down, held his violin like a guitar and proceeded to dazzle us with a plucked showpiece called Balalaika, also by Shchedrin.
The concert had opened with the blare of trumpets and Tchaikovsky's imperious Polonaise from his opera Eugene Onegin. Next came a couple of Pushkin waltzes by Prokofiev, both like cameo flashbacks to the great ballets, Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella. The first moved from darkness to light and back again, and the second featured a velvet-draped melody line. The concert ended with that most outwardly emotive of Tchaikovsky symphonies, the Fifth. Tchaikovsky suggests that the slow movement should be played with plenty of freedom and Rostropovich took him at his word. This was big, brazen Tchaikovsky, unstinting in its commitment and lovably over the top. The LSO held the plot with obvious dedication.
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