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Philharmonia Orchestra at St David''s Hall.

Byline: John Greally

UNDER the baton of Fabio Luisi the Philharmonia brought Schumann's Symphony No 2 more alive than I'd ever heard it.

In the opening movement Luisi found that exhilarating forward drive that had one early critic comparing the symphony to Beethoven.

There was a gorgeous interplay of all the orchestra's sections in the Scherzo, pointing up the quick-witted mischief that this movement shares with the finale in tribute to Mendelssohn.

The elegiac slow movement is larded with cloying appoggiaturas that make it hard to bring off with conviction. Yet conductor and orchestra, with a gorgeous opulence of sound, produced a vibrant sense of life constantly unfolding.

Brahms's titanic Piano Concerto No 1, with the Israeli soloist Yefim Bronfman, was in the hands of a master. The orchestral opening was well short of the necessary fire, but then the scary snarl of the horns, followed by the pianist's assured entry, elevated the whole thing to the plane where it belongs.

Bronfman's handling of the work's fiendishly demanding passages was not merely brilliant and powerful - it was always shaped by Brahms' sure sense of direction.

And in the lyrical passages his singing tone was full of shimmering lights.

Despite many lovely turns of phrase by piano and orchestra in the Adagio, this movement's tendency to drag was not really overcome.

The finale, though, fizzed and crackled a treat.

The concert opener, Weber's Oberon overture, went with fine string articulation, rhythmic precision and a fondly caressing utterance of the great tunes.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 15, 2010
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