Tchaikovsky’s grand and gorgeous second piano concerto has always been overshadowed by the immensely popular first.
In Stephen Hough it has a new champion who will be playing it with the CBSO at the BBC Proms later this month and recording it as part of a complete Tchaikovsky concerto set.
This masterly performance fully justified his belief that it’s an unjustly neglected work and every bit as fine as the first concerto.
Hough was equally adept in the first movement’s martial swagger, the piano’s tender lyrical musings with the flute and the demanding cadenza.
Andris Nelsons’ affinity with Tchaikovsky’s music was evident, with never a hint of bombast or schmaltz compromising its emotional warmth.
The central andante was beautiful as, joined by the first violin and cello, it became a triple concerto with the almost operatic themes shared between the players.
As the emphatic final chord echoed around the cathedral’s nave the audience responded heartily to a very special performance.
Landlocked Lichfield was temporarily swept out to sea for Debussy’s La Mer which under Nelsons’ baton had the authentic whiff of ozone and tang of salt.
He whipped up a final storm of epic proportions but the playful and delicate elements of the work were not neglected.
Debussy uses the plaintive cries of flute and oboe to great effect and the CBSO’s wind players were outstanding.
Ravel’s La Valse, deceptively simple but musically devastating, was similarly impressive from its opening sinister throbbing bass line to its cataclysmic finale as the waltz implodes.
Nelsons’ conducting of the Adagietto from Mahler’s fifth symphony was too self-consciously beautiful, a hothouse flower rather than a natural blossom, freshness sacrificed in favour of the exquisite.