LET'S be clear about the star "rating" above.

It is for the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra players' riveting performance on Sunday night of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony. I'm not sure if I've actually heard this orchestra before (there are so many ensembles). It's an interesting outfit, a direct descendent of the orchestra of Leningrad Radio, whose members were the only musicians left in Leningrad during the long Nazi siege, and who therefore became a core group of the hastily-assembled orchestra that gave the legendary 1942 premiere of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony in the besieged city, amplified and played directly at the German lines.

The orchestra, now 80, is marking its birthday with a series of performances of the symphony, itself now 70. And Sunday's, in Edinburgh, was simply one of the best I've heard. The opening tempo set by conductor Alexander Dmitriev (about whose featureless, four-square direction I felt very cool) was broad, spacious, and long range, lacking at times, in each movement of the huge symphony, a sense of drive and purpose.

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But that was countered, at every stage, by the concentrated intensity of the playing of the orchestra, which was so fierce it scorched, right through the long, notorious, juggernaut march of the first movement to the convulsive, battering coda, where the sheer physicality of the theme, poundingly dragged up from the bass to give us all a climactic thumping, was almost tangible. Great playing from a band more from an SSO than an RSNO mould, if you follow my drift.

The first half was given over to Freddy Kempf's lightweight account of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto: strong enough on expressive lyricism, but desperately short on physical power.

HHHH