CHAMBER ORCHESTRA KREMLIN, Misha Rachlevsky, conductor, City Hall Concert Hall Despite being saddled with a most unfortunate name and only being together for five years, the playing of the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin is admirable enough. The programme was eclectic, ranging from Bach to Elgar and Shostakovich, but one had no doubt that Russian music was their meat and potatoes. For Elgar and the Grieg, the music simply lacked life. Elgar's String Serenade may be bucolic in tone, but it is also filled with contrasts and textures. Under Misha Rachlevsky, it was played with all the passion and excitement of warm milk. Ditto for the lovely Grieg Elegiac Melodies. The strings of the Kremlin orchestra are fine and delicate, but they rarely could come up with the almost ethereal sounds of those Norwegian miniatures. But start the orchestra on Tchaikovsky's Souvenirs de Florence and you have a new ensemble. The opening was blurred, but one could savour a virtual aroma of Italy in the rush of the strings. After calming down a bit (though the adagio was played almost allegro) they played in two ways. First, with a distinct, likable passion. And second, the orchestra exhibited the greatest variety of string techniques, performed effortlessly thanks to their conductor, a virtuoso in his own right. The playing didn't have pinprick perfection but the zest was infectious. The most important work, though, was the arrangement of Shostakovich's 8th String Quartet. It is a work of severity, concentration and passion. It is also plagiaristic, as Shostakovich shamelessly quoted dozens of his own pieces, so even to the uninitiated, the work seemed familiar. It was as picturesque as it was austere. And pairing that agonising final Largo with the opening of Bach's Art of the Fugue was like ending a great sermon with a magnificent amen.