Prom 43, Royal Albert Hall, London/radio3

Winter wonderland
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The Independent Culture

It would be good to hear Tchaikovsky's first three symphonies a little more often. The St Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov played the First, picturesquely called "Winter Daydreams", which suits the atmospheric, wind-swept opening of the first movement and the utterly character- istic Scherzo with its playful garlands of woodwind. The title doesn't suit much besides, but who cares? It's still an acceptable way of identifying the work, which the composer thought better than some of his more mature music.

The St Petersburg Philharmonic still has its own sound, quite distinct from our own orchestras, with woodwind that really sound like woodwind – frankly reedy clarinet and needle-sharp oboe – brass with a cutting attack and horns that can sound strangely like bugles.

"Winter Daydreams" still has its flaws, though they are forgivable because the actual ideas are so appealing. In the first movement their charm is not lessened by the forced construction that is made of them. The weakest movement is the finale, with its quasi-fugal writing which seems merely dutiful, and a mundane conclusion.

In Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, the soloist was the Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang. He began the first movement with admirable simplicity, projecting an uncommonly limpid purity of tone, and when his part really took off, his clarity remained remarkable. But, through no fault of his, an awful lot of detail had to be given the benefit of the doubt, simply because of the vastness of the hall.

Tyros these days like to play the chunkier version of Rachmaninov's cadenza, pouncing on its chords to show their athletic prowess, and Lang Lang only spoilt a clear passage through these perilous waters by crude rhythmic distortion near the end. But in the finale his few rhythmic and dynamic lur-ches could be put down to excitability. The way the trumpet rode the last climax was marvellously spontaneous, like a free spirit finally breaking loose, naked and unashamed.

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