St Petersberg Symphony Orch., Norwich

MICHAEL DRAKE St Andrew's Hall, scene of so many musical triumphs, rang last evening to the exciting sounds of Russian music played by a Russian orchestra.

MICHAEL DRAKE

The Old Hall, scene of so many musical triumphs, rang last evening to the exciting sounds of Russian music played by a Russian orchestra. Impact was made from the first bar of one of the Spartacus Suites by Khachaturian and in particular violins' and cellos' enveloping sound, but every section was scintillating. If that was thrilling, the passionate strength of soloist Nana Jashvili in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No 1 was quite extraordinary. Gathering pace from a pastoral opening under relatively hushed orchestral tones and with wondrous ostinato passages, she never sought any compromise to the vivacissimo Scherzo as inherent rhythm permeated to the finale before the whole returned to the opening mood.

As if the first-half excitement had not been sufficient, there followed Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet, notable especially for its string tone and always responding to conductor Vladimir Altschulen's every call. More fantasy in the same composer's Francesca da Rimini with wave after wave of thrilling sounds and, as in the opening, each section was quite dazzling.

It was entirely worth the wait to hear this superb orchestra in the festival's undoubted centrepiece. They, of course, deserved the encores as the sell-out audience could hardly stop applauding, though personally I found them anticlimactic. The only pity was that the concert did not have a decent programme to go with it.

Michael Drake

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