Russian National Orchestra/Pletnev, Royal Festival Hall London

The trouble with being as great a pianist as Mikhail Pletnev is that your audience may secretly regret your presence on the conductor's podium when there's a keyboard to be played. When Pletnev's compatriot Boris Berezovsky took the stage for Rachmaninov's Fourth Piano Concerto, he did so with the music and a page-turner in tow. What kind of signal does that send? Would an actor arrive on stage with the script? Would Pletnev, the pianist, have elected to perform a work he either didn't know from memory or felt insecure about? I doubt it.

Now, Berezovsky can play all right - we have regularly thrilled to his expansive style and steely-fingered virtuosity. But here he was, with the top-class Russian National Orchestra, hanging on to every last semiquaver of the music in front of him. You may ask: what difference does it make so long as the notes get played, and well played? Orchestras don't play from memory. The conductor is duty-bound (for safety's sake) to use the score in a concerto. So why not the soloist?

Well, the reasons were clear from this performance. Berezovsky never sounded or felt free of the written page. There's a huge difference between playing a piece and truly inhabiting it. Berezovsky played Rachmaninov's Fourth Piano Concerto: he delivered the notes, but not the full extent of what lies beyond them. There was the semblance of brilliance in the bravura passages and poise in the reflective (though one wondered what Pletnev might have made of those shadowy recesses), but in a work as rhythmically challenging as this, Berezovsky's reflexes - the keenness of his rapport with the musicians around him - was dulled by the presence of the score, and a sense of abandonment to the work's euphoria was never fully achieved. In a phrase, score-bound.

Pletnev, the conductor, meanwhile presided over some distinctly fine playing from his orchestra. In Shostakovich's Symphony No 11 "The Year 1905", their conviction (so compromised in Berezovsky's Rachmaninov) was fiercely compelling. At last this great piece - for so long sidelined as merely "pictorial" Shostakovich - is finding universal favour as the masterpiece it surely is. The work stands as tall now as it always did against the misery of oppression wherever and whenever it is perpetrated (the symphony was written the year after Soviet troops crushed the popular revolution in Hungary), and its revolutionary songs carry an extraordinary weight of history. There's a moment that haunts the memory. It's when the proudest and most defiant of the revolutionary songs is turned into a lament for solo cor anglais. It's a voice at once broken but unbowed. And it breaks your heart.

Pletnev projected the text here with great precision and force. You could argue that his eminently musical overview was at times a shade literal; that the subtext didn't resonate as it can and does with, say, Mstislav Rostropovich at the helm. But the turbulence prevailed: the graphic portrayal of state brutality as harnessed in the pounding onslaught of solo percussion did its worst. And those numbing silences before and after catastrophe - they were something, one felt, that this orchestra recognised. Now we did too. Shaken and stirred, I'd say.

Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray is joining Strictly Come Dancing 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Double bill: Kookie Ryan, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Papou in ‘Nymphomaniac’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Big Blues - Shark' by Alexander Mustard won the Coast category

photography
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering