Philharmonia Orchestra

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Miranda Heggie

Five Stars

Opening with a first half of music by Jean Sibelius, the Philharmonia under Vladimir Ashkenazy gave a dazzling performance at the Usher Hall on Sunday afternoon. The measured dynamic variation of his Valse Trieste was arresting, as Ashkenazy moulded the music with expert control. Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D minor, with BBC New Generation Artist Esther Yoo as the soloist was equally stunning. Yoo’s solo passages were bewitching, as she played her cadenza in the middle of the first movement with such a huge and intricate amount of detail if was almost hard to conceive the sounds were coming from just one instrument, and the balance between soloist and orchestra was just perfect under Ashkenazy’s intuitive direction

Moving on to play Rachmaninov’s Symphony number 2 in E Minor, this must surely have been Rachmaninov’s music at its finest. Ashkenazy was astonishing as he conducted the orchestra with an amazing breadth of expression, taking the orchestra through a whirlwind of emotion. The finesse with which his symphony was delivered, right down to the last semiquaver was quite incredible, under the direction of someone who has clearly an innate knowledge of this repertoire. The intensity of the final bars of the first movement was heated and stormy, before the orchestra erupted with a fiery passion in the second ‘allegro molto’ movement, with scurrying string passages juxtaposed with incandescent brass. The adagio’s clarinet solo was beautifully clear and measured, as the sixteen part string accompaniment dripped with tender lyricism. The final movement, Allegro Vivace was hugely vivid and colourful, with the solo flute melting into the strings, before culminating in a thunderous finale.