Classical review: St Petersburg Philharmonic & Lugansky, Edinburgh

Maestro Yuri Temirkanov was in complete control of his orchestra and soloists

Maestro Yuri Temirkanov was in complete control of his orchestra and soloists

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WHO says Russian orchestras aren’t what they used to be? Last Sunday’s homegrown programme by the St Petersburg Philharmonic – a Liadov tone poem, a Rachmaninov concerto and a Shostakovich symphony – was, quite simply, one of the most mind-blowing orchestral performances Scotland has witnessed in many years, Edinburgh Festival concerts included.

St Petersburg Philharmonic & Lugansky - Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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Take the smouldering opening bars of Liadov’s Kikimora, and a phalanx of double basses whose reaction to conductor Yuri Temirkanov’s practical upbeat was to issue a tone so rich and pungent you could feel the vibrations penetrate the soles of your feet. From that moment on, wave upon wave of delicious string playing and molten wind and brass coloured this music with throbbing musicality and burnished passion.

Pianist Nikolai Lugansky is no stranger to Scotland, but here, with his Russian compatriots, he gave one of the most probing and sensitive performances of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 3 I’ve ever heard. It wasn’t just him, though his delivery was a triumph of clarity, perceptive exploration, even surprisingly whimsical at times. This was a golden partnership, in which Temirkanov played along, throwing as many revelatory surprises into the boiling pot as Lugansky.

You’d expect Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony to triumph in the hands of the orchestra it was written for. And sure enough, this performance was one of complete ownership and self-belief. Again, the basses set an ominous, visceral mood, but what followed was simply earth-shattering: the brutal definition of the allegro; the gnawing persistence of the allegretto, and the exultant release of the finale. Unforgettable.

Seen on 02.11.14

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