From Alan Whicker to Michael Palin, I have always enjoyed a good travelogue. In truth, I find them slightly addictive, mainly because they tell a bit of a story, connecting people and places with points in time. Vladimir Jurowski did the same with his musical travelogue, taking us on an enlightening journey through 19th and 20th century Russian music, but following a less conventional route. For example, when was the last time you heard the name Alexander Dargomyzhsky? Yet it was his and Glinka's operas that were instrumental in the development of Russian musical culture in the 19th century. And how often have we heard Prokofiev's original Cello Concerto in E minor in preference to his more popular reworking of the same piece, his Symphony-Concerto

Steven Isserlis © Satoshi Aoyagi
Steven Isserlis
© Satoshi Aoyagi

With this backdrop, Jurowski opened with a piece from the father of Russian music, Mikhail Glinka. Glinka was the first in a long line of Russian composers to take inspiration from Spain, as evidenced in his exotic Spanish Overtures Nos. 1 & 2, subtitled "Capriccio brillante on the Jota Aragonesa" and "Recollection of a Summer Night in Madrid", complete with castanets and a liberal spreading of Spanish dance. Jurowski delighted in these works, exuding poise and lilt and drawing out the bold sweeping statements. There was some fine work from the London Philharmonic Orchestra's grinding strings and authoritative brass, with cheeky winds and twinkling strings and harp leaving you feeling quite revitalised.

Notwithstanding the popularity of its subsequent reworking, cellist Steven Isserlis considers Prokofiev's rarely performed Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 58, to be a masterpiece, "a daring, unique and challenging creation". Isserlis gave a fully committed performance, mixing flowing melancholy over stoic rhythms with angular passages, and creating distance with delicate flurries in the more ethereal episodes. There was an unfortunate break in mood and concentration in the second movement when a snap and an exclamation meant a temporary halt in proceedings while Isserlis' cello was fixed. But this was soon forgotten as things resumed, with Isserlis impressive and powerful in the dynamic third movement and Jurowski in close attendance painting vivid orchestral colours. Despite one or two minor issues of balance and intonation, this was a stand-out performance from a masterful interpreter of this extraordinary work.

Alexander Dargomyzhsky is hardly a household name, but he was an important catalyst in the development of Russian music between Glinka and other Russian greats. It was Glinka who encouraged Dargomyzhsky to compose, and his Baba Yaga (Fantasy-Scherzo), based on a witch character from Slavic folklore, is one of his more accomplished works, striking in its inventive use of harmonies. Jurowski and the LPO captured the full Russianness of this piece, revelling in the plaintive melodies and majesty of the opening, and the vitriolic and playful passages that followed were played with gritty sharpness and precision.

Jurowski ended with a buoyant performance of Tchaikovsky's folk-infused Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Little Russian". Inspired by his own love of Russian folk music and by Glinka's groundbreaking Kamarinskaya, Tchaikovsky wrote this piece while on holiday in Ukraine, known then as "Little Russia", and incorporated Ukrainian folk songs into three of its movements. Jurowski's performance was wonderfully shaped and paced, with incisive drive and flowing folk melodies weaving in and out. There was a satisfyingly triumphant and joyous feel to the piece, with scrubbing strings, monumental brass and some fine detailing from the chattering winds in the light, springy sections. In the Finale, it was really a case of sit back and let the music wash over you as the music reached a magnificent adrenaline-pumping climax.

This calibre of Russian music really needs to be heard live, and Jurowski, Isserlis and the LPO did Russia proud. Spasibo!