Throughout history, artists and composers have been known to cause controversy with groundbreaking new works that shocked and challenged audiences. Yet some, like Tchaikovsky (whose Piano Concerto was rejected by his mentor Rubinstein), managed to maintain the strength of their musical convictions in the face of public rejection.

This daring spirit can prove all too dangerous in certain circumstances, as in the case of Shostakovich, who also featured in this evening’s all-Russian programme. By 1936 he had fallen out of favour with Soviet authorities, who considered his works (such as the opera Lady Macbeth) chaotic and dissonant. Fearing for his safety, Shostakovich withdrew his controversial Fourth Symphony. The following year saw the completion of the Fifth Symphony, written in a much more accessible style and conventional form.

But first, Liadov’s Enchanted Lake painted a musical picture with hushed strings punctuated by pastoral harp and woodwind. This was an attractive exploration in orchestral colour, but one could see how this kind of musical scene setting might be better suited to the opera house, for which it was originally intended.

Performers, too, have been known to cause controversy, and few more so than Croatian pianist Ivo Pogorelich, who rose to prominence after Martha Argerich left the jury in protest at his elimination from the International Chopin Competition. To describe his performance as wildly eccentric would not be an overstatement. Pogorelich’s rhythms were often highly distorted, and his tone had a Bartokian brittleness where a more rich, Russian romanticism was required.

While an individual take on such a well-known piece can be a breath of fresh air, at times it seemed as though soloist and orchestra were performing two different pieces, and this made conductor Tughan Sokhiev’s job very difficult indeed. The finale lacked the excitement I had hoped for, and all sense of momentum and direction was lost through heavily laboured offbeat accents. Somewhat perversely, Pogorelich insisted on hammering out the bass line over the right hand melodic theme, and the overall effect was highly mannered and pedestrian.

The Philharmonia was thankfully able to take back the reins for the Shostakovich. This was full of ominous foreboding, with dark violas, piercing piccolos and characteristic musical devices such as the repeated violin figure over a threatening bass line. The faraway snare advancing from the distance had echoes of the Seventh ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, in which this plays such an important role. Particularly effective in its eeriness was the chromatic ascent of the celeste that closed the first movement.

The second movement Allegretto was most successful, with the orchestra fully capturing the lilting dance rhythm in triple time. The animated cellos and basses were followed by a sparkling Eb clarinet solo from Kimon Parry. The Largo was full of the brooding intensity associated with Shostakovich, yet without sacrificing a degree of tasteful restraint. The orchestra really came to life for the finale, opening with a full-bodied brass theme and closing with timpanist Andrew Smith playing at full pelt in an exciting conclusion that resonated throughout the hall.