We all know what to expect from a virtuosic violin concerto: the chance for the soloist to take our breath away with a torrent semiquavers, to dazzle us with brilliance of playing the unplayable. When going to see Andrzej Panufnik's Violin Concerto, however, it would be a good idea to leave those expectations in the cloakroom: it's a concerto devoid of overt technical flashiness.

Sergej Krylov © Mary Slepkova
Sergej Krylov
© Mary Slepkova
But for sure, it demands virtuosity. The soloist is required to carry the vast majority of the emotional content of the piece with relatively few notes in which to do it and relatively little help from the strings-only orchestra. Last night at the Royal Festival Hall, Sergej Krylov proved himself up to the task in no uncertain terms. What impressed most was his ability to take a sustained note and shape it into a series of different timbres as the note progresses: thinning it out or broadening it, sweetening or adding harshness. High harmonics could appear as if grasped from thin air, accenting was intense. There was the odd, easily forgivable, slip in bowing, but Krylov's alternation of forcefulness and delicacy was nothing short of extraordinary. If you were looking for them, the technical challenges were there: some octave leaps and a pianissimo glissando in the high harmonics, close to the end of the work, looked as difficult as any flashy run. This is a violinist and a concerto that I want to see again – I'm surprised at how seldom the Panufnik appears on concert programmes.

Thomas Søndergard and the London Philharmonic Orchestra proved sensitive accompanists, particularly strong in the pizzicato passages and in their ability to produce acceleration in the music; as the work proceeded, Krylov's intensity seemed increasingly to inspire the orchestra to respond in like manner. But the string sound was never big and lustrous. There are passages, particularly in the first movement, where one really wants the orchestra to come in and drown us in the richness of their sound, and that never quite happened.

Krylov's encore – "Obsession" from Ysaÿe's Second Sonata – was certainly a piece to dispel any doubts about his ability to play fast – heavily dance-infused rhythms featuring some super-fast sul ponticello arpeggios. Krylov performed with great physicality, horsehair from the bow flying everywhere by the end – a real crowd-pleaser.

The concert's opening piece, Sibelius's Suite, King Kristian II, had been a disappointment: pleasant, but forgettable.There was some decent orchestral playing, especially from the woodwind, but the LPO were unable to inject enough interest to get round the fact that this is incidental music for a play, repackaged for the concert stage. Relatively slow tempi meant that at nearly half an hour, it made for a very long warm-up piece.

Søndergard has a clean and precise manner on the podium and it's blatantly obvious that the musicians in the LPO hold him in high regard. After the interval, they came into their own with Shostakovich's Symphony no. 5 in D minor. The absence of a big, lush string sound remained, as did Søndergard's preference for spacious tempi, but here, they were pressed into the service of bringing out detail in the score. The dynamic control was impeccable, imparting force to the harmonic shifts in the first movement, and the individual harp chords which announce tension-filled key changes rang through with clarity. The fragments of melody in this movement are very memorable, and one of Shostakovich's tricks is to keep them coming back in different instruments: the return on tuba of the initial string theme came through beautifully, as did the flute's playing of what had been a minor-key string theme, shifted subtly to major – the ambiguity of key throughout the movement projected to perfection.

The three-time second movement was definitely too slow for my taste, losing an element of “dance with the devil” that appears in the interpretations I love best, but you couldn't fault the accenting, the pin-sharp pizzicato or the fact that the players were really getting involved with the music – especially the brass. The slow tempo worked better in the third movement, with wonderful swell, a chorale-like feel and a beautifully dreamy passage to end.

The fourth movement has one of Shostakovich's trademarks: a grand, helter-skelter cavalry charge which would be perfectly suited to gung-ho militarists were it not for the sneaking suspicion that the whole thing is written with intense sarcasm. The LPO octet of trumpet/trombone/tuba players knocked it out the park, and – setting aside the sarcasm, for a moment – it made for a superbly exciting end to an excellent concert.