Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Simonov, Usher Hall, Edinburgh *****
That rawness was most evident in their closing Shostakovich Symphony No.10, which – and this is a compliment – reminded you of just what a draining, difficult piece it really is. Simonov injected the whole thing with a relentless intensity, cranked up and down to striking effect in a steely opening movement, and exploding into grotesque life in its pounding scherzo, reputedly a musical portrait of Stalin, where Simonov’s rather slow tempo only emphasised the music’s immovable weight. By the end, though, after Shostakovich’s pleading horn calls to a pupil he loved, his desperate repetitions of his own initials transformed into music felt like an act of defiance delivered through gritted teeth. Quite simply, a remarkable vision of the piece.
Beforehand, too, Romanian-born pianist Alexandra Dariescu dug deep into Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto to remind you of just what an affecting, effective work it is, despite its over-exposure. It was quite a driven, hard-edged account, but she played as if every phrase held a huge personal meaning to her – technically immaculate, mesmerising, deeply moving. To open, Simonov wrung every drop of drama and sentiment from Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, which is just as it should be.