It’s just over two years since the Moscow Philharmonic last played at the Anvil. This was another Russian programme and the playing under Yuri Simonov was totally committed and wonderfully polished.
Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet unfolded with clear-sighted solemnity, its tragic import and devotional restraint implicit from the start. There followed a reading of closely observed details, climatic and passionate as required, with Simonov’s distinctive gestures coaxing wonderfully warm playing for the great love melody.
Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto was a less-involving affair with Natalia Lomeiko technically accomplished but wanting in variety and communication. Her reliance on copy tended to limit expressive freedom, and a hardening of tone restricted the first movement’s intimacies and otherworldliness. Although the playful scampering in the mechanistic Scherzo fared better, it was only in the Finale that she was completely at home, bringing soulfulness and a more yielding tone to its radiance. Throughout, the MPO was a sensitive collaborator.
A fine encore better demonstrated Lomeiko’s talents, the Finale (‘Les Furies’) from Ysaÿe’s Second Sonata – her virtuosity abundant and compelling whether in delicate nuances or strong muscularity.
Shostakovich 10 received a mostly gripping performance – brooding, ferocious, haunting and celebratory. To the arch-like first movement there was a natural sense of progression, cumulative tensions shaped with absolute certainty, and at the end perilously exposed piccolos notably secure, although the Scherzo’s frenzy and sheer venom failed to materialise, risk-taking traded for a steady-as-she-goes control. Assorted woodwinds left a strong impression in the Allegretto; Shostakovich’s musical motto DSCH tellingly triumphant and then poignantly entwined with those of his muse Elvira Nazirova by Viktor Shefer’s expressive horn and Dmitry Shorokov’s beguiling violin. It was with conquest that this great emotional roller-coaster closed, its startling volte-face, from Siberian wastes to fairground neatly judged, the players giving their all to Simonov’s demonstrative manner.
Two extras: ‘Romance’ from Shostakovich’s Gadfly score and a tongue-in-cheek rendition of the third-movement ‘Gavotte’ from Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony.