PROMS / St Petersburg Philharmonic: Royal Albert Hall / Radio 3

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The Independent Culture
The St Petersburg Philharmonic radically reshaped its layout for its Prom on Tuesday - with cellos centre left, violins either side, and string basses and brass- percussion rising like wings to left and right. From the back of the stalls it was hard to tell whether this made a great deal of difference. It wasn't, however, minute refinements of sound that we'd come to hear, but that pulse-quickening melodic sweep and rhythmic drive which - rightly or wrongly - we still associate with the Petersburg / Leningrad tradition.

There was no lack of surging feeling and long-breathed eloquence in Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, and soloist Mikhail Rudy was well matched to the orchestra in spirit. If his piano had been as well matched in pitch, it might have been glorious, but alas, clashes of tuning spoiled passage after passage. Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, however, was gremlin- free. Mariss Jansons's pacy opening, his sudden gear-changes and free attitude to dynamics (notably at the first big climax of the Largo) weren't for purists, and the urgency and dark, private intensity were of a kind that European and American conductors often miss. As for the 'Is the end tragic or triumphant?' question . . . No obvious partisanship here - it was simply magnificent.

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