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REVIEWS: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall

LONG, sustained applause reverberated round a fairly full-looking City Hall at the end of Shostakovich's Second Concerto: a truly wonderful performance from Natasha Paremski.

For one so young, the maturity of her playing was astonishing, yet it retained the freshness of youth.

It was as if she was joyfully discovering the music for the first time in the outer movements, especially the first with the multiplicity of notes hit with unerring accuracy – not one sounding slightly off!

But it wasn't just phenomenal digital dexterity; there was meaningfulness behind the undemonstrative virtuosity, while the andante could not have been more meaningful. Extremely slow and extremely quiet, with her playing remaining focussed and projected, it took on a palpable feeling of spirituality.

Her natural feel for shaping music was mirrored with total accord by the RPO and Grzegorz Nowak, a supremely musicianly conductor who seems to work largely under the radar of international glare.

He drew a magnificent Shostakovich Fifth Symphony from his marvellously pliant orchestra: uneasy, empty martial pomp, bleakness, the plaintive largo being highly emotional before brilliantly contriving to make the coda of the rabble-rousing finale sound not especially triumphant.

A crisp, life-affirming account of the composer's somewhat hackneyed Festival Overture showed it in a better light than can be its lot.

Five Star Opera, Victoria Hall

ALTHOUGH there were instances of ambition outstripping well-intentioned means, Sheffield City Opera's enterprising concert of excerpts from five operas had its moments.

Gluck's Orfeo came off best with the sequence of numbers ending it from the excellent Zena Bradley, Rebecca Lambert, whose voice continues to develop nicely, and Debbie Michaels.

The fiendish Doll Song from Offenbach's Hoffmann was tackled fearlessly and with general accuracy by Andrea Tweedale, who even managed to just about pitch the stratospheric G sharp – or is it F sharp? – at the end, having squeaked it the first time round.

Among other items worthy of mention elsewhere were Matthew Palmer's Birdcatcher Song (Mozart's Flute), Ernesto Correa's splendid account of Una furtiva lagrima (Donizetti's L'Elisir) and the Witches' Chorus (Verdi's Macbeth), very well done from the ladies of the chorus.

Will Taylor's accompaniments were compromised because of the mini-piano at his disposal.

Bernard Lee

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