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

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The Independent Culture
After apparently failing to please in Edinburgh, the St Petersburg Philharmonic showed their true mettle again in a second prom appearance on Wednesday's under Yuri Temirkanov. Indeed, they took the Albert Hall by storm with their encores as only Russian performers can, including Elgar's 'Nimrod', which they turned with real style and feeling.

There was much of the circus in this crowd-pleasing finale, and the true peak of the concert was reached earlier in a splendid performance of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony. This work has never achieved the popularity of the last three numbered symphonies, and its great difficulty has mitigated against frequent performance. But what a powerful masterpiece it is, showing the subtle hues of Tchaikovsky's late orchestral technique, and uniquely pitting heroic melancholy against the homely and the pastoral.

Temirkanov and his players characterised the work with profound sympathy, and the big narrative structures achieved an unbroken arch of true inevitability. It was a mistake to cut the work's coda, despite long-held doubts about its reconciling tone, but in all other respects this was an ideal interpretation. We also heard the brilliant young Maxim Vengerov in Sibelius's Violin Concerto, a performance of fire and poetry is sometimes lacking in poise.

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