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RSNO, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

ON Thursday I went up to a former chairman of the RSNO at half time in the concert and said, in mock horror: "I can't write about this in The Herald: it's a family newspaper; my children could read this."

"This" was the performance by Russian pianist Olga Kern of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, one of the great Romantic warhorse-weepies, plundered in a hundred ways for a thousand romantic occasions. Seldom can it have been so explicitly exploited as by Ms Kern at the Valentine concert.

I'd better not say that, clearly, she overtly felt every bit of it, because that would be tasteless. But clearly, she overtly felt every bit of it, mirrored, uncomfortably for some listeners, in her every facial nuance and expression. I have to say it was massively entertaining to watch the writhing and those unmistakable sharp intakes of breath.

A cooler perspective might observe her huge and abrupt changes of tempo, well-tracked by conductor Christian Kluxen and the RSNO, the fact she wasn't listening to the orchestra, flattening every wind solo in sight, and blatantly ignoring the fact that how to do this concerto effectively is actually enshrined on disc by Rachmaninov. And it's not about the sexual act in music. (The piano went off for a cold shower and a lie down.)

It was great fun to watch and hear Kern's performance. And it was in the context of a cracking Romantic programme, with the RSNO blazing through Richard Strauss's Don Juan and a meaty version of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, culminating in a brilliantly proportioned account of Ravel's Bolero.


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