St Petersburg SO/Alexander Dmitriev at Cadogan Hall – Vaughan Williams & Rachmaninov – Freddy Kempf plays Paganini Rhapsody

Vaughan Williams
Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43
Symphony No.2 in E minor, Op.27

Freddy Kempf (piano)

St Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Dmitriev

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 17 October, 2012
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Alexander DmitrievTo attend a concert given by the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra and Alexander Dmitriev is like stepping back in time. This is one of those legendary partnerships that have all but disappeared today. Dmitriev has been at the head of this orchestra for thirty-five years. The closeness of the relationship shows in the exquisite moulding of phrases, entirely natural rubato and purity of tone.

The concert opened with a gem from the English repertoire. Alexander Dmitriev’s conception of Vaughan Williams’s wonderful Tallis Fantasia was spacious, ethereal and utterly beautiful.

Freddy Kempf. Photograph: Neda NavaeeThe rest of the concert was devoted to Rachmaninov. Before the Second Symphony came a scintillating and gripping performance of the Paganini Rhapsody. Freddy Kempf was the young tyro taking on its numerous challenges and sailed through with flying colours aided by seasoned support. At one moment mercurial, at another spacious and thoughtful; the famous Variation XVIII slipped into our consciousness and never left it.

I have never heard Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony played live by a Russian Orchestra. This was mesmeric playing by musicians with the ebb and flow of the music in their blood, guided by one of the greatest unsung conductors alive today.Dmitriev is a man of utter loyalty to his native city and its orchestra and led a sublime, completely natural, focused and unrushed interpretation of Rachmaninov’s greatest work.

For encores, more Rachmaninov, his Vocalise, and ‘Spanish Dance’ from Glazunov’s ballet Raymonda, which only reinforced the feeling that this concert was one to treasure.

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