Dazzling string technique

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Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major is now one of the most popular in the repertoire, yet at its first performance it was dismissed as an unplayable piece in which the fiddle is 'beaten black and blue.'

And you can see what the critics meant, as the soloist is expected to attack the instrument with a violence and rudeness  probably never experienced before.

To the featherweight delicacy listeners were used to was added the sound of something akin to dragging a chair across a stone floor.

We now admire such gusto as an essential part of playing at the highest level, and here  the Italian virtuoso Francesca Dego was unsparing in her vigour as her fingers flew with mesmerising speed over the strings.

The result was an enthralling performance of breath-taking technique, especially in her dazzling approach to the cadenzas of the fast first movement.

It was all in sharp contrast to the opening offering in this, the second all-Russian programme in the current International Concert Season -  Mussorgsky's Dawn on the Moscow River, a lovely, quiet evocation of a moment of pastoral peace.

Not so the closing offering, Rachmaninov's 3rd Symphony, which calls on large forces. The focus of the music moves around the orchestra constantly, giving mercurial guest conductor Daniele Rustioni the chance to come into his own. He not so much conducts the orchestra as gets up close and personal with little groups and individual players. At one point I thought he was about to conduct the audience - but it works.

Philip Andrews