dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
An evening of epic proportions
This St Petersburg Philharmonic concert at Symphony Hall Birmingham was certainly ambitious in scope featuring both a Mahler symphony and a Rachmaninoff piano concerto but there was no doubt the challenge was amply met.
Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No 3 asks a lot of any performer and yet Freddy Kempf had total mastery of the piece from its gentle opening notes to its thundering finale. Kempf worked brilliantly with the orchestra, keeping in perfect harmony with the musicians while also ensuring he was the one controlling the piece. His dexterity and talent kept us on the edge of our seats and his achievement was greatly appreciated by the Symphony Hall audience, who called him back for four rounds of applause.
Vassily Sinaisky had stepped in to conduct after the orchestra's music director Yuri Temirkanov had to pull out due to ill health. Sinaisky's expressive conducting saw him gently coaxing or softly toning down the musicians as necessary.
Conducting Mahler's Fourth Symphony, he ensured the orchestra expressed the full scope of the piece. Inspired by the mind and experience of a child, the Mahler's Fourth takes us through the fun of childhood into a gentle lullaby before opening the gates of heaven. Here soprano Anna Devin took centre stage to give a beautiful performance of the symphony's final song The Heavenly Life.
The evening also featured a little gem from Prokofiev, his Symphony No 1 which is contained into 15 minutes. Busy and lively, it also features a short gavotte which would reoccur in an amplified form in Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet.
It was a freezing night and there must have been audience members who were tempted to stay at home in the warm rather than venture out but after two-and-a-half hours of this performance, they must equally have been glad they made the effort.