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Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra – Leeds Town Hall

Conductor: Yuri Simonov

Music: Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky

Reviewer: Nicola Harrison

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

‘Music is the shorthand of emotion.’

Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Mussorgsky (1839-1881), Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) and Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) were influential Russian nationalists during the Romantic period (1820-1900). Romanticism is characterised by idealising the expression of the emoTions of the composer. The notion of the suffering artist stems from this period, where a new emphasis is placed on strong emotions such as trepidation, terror and awe. Their works continue to be widely performed and popular to a wide audience.

Mussorgsky’s ‘A Night on a Bare Mountain’ was originally entitled ‘St John’s Night on the Bare Mountain’ and was composed between 1866 and 1867. Rimsky-Korsakov refashioned the manuscript following his death in order to improve it and it was first performed in St Petersburg in 1886. Mussorgsky’s most famous work is the orchestration of his piano suite, ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, published in 1886 and set for orchestra by Ravel in 1921. Mussorgsky’s music is highly individual and colouristic in style. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D (1878) exploits his love of melody which is highly individual and characterful, its complexity making it exciting and challenging for the virtuoso. His music is always masterfully orchestrated.

The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction today of Yuri Simonov, was established after the Second World War by the Russian government and continues to amaze audiences with their highly acclaimed conductors and soloists.

The programme for this concert was a classic Russian experience and from the outset, the fine musicianship and discipline displayed by the orchestra held a captive audience. The strings, led by Dmitry Shorokhov, played with virtuosic ease throughout, creating dramatic impact and moving freely to the lighter movements with astounding sensitivity. The woodwind section performed their solo passages with great tonal control, adding a new dimension to the music and allowing the more pastoral sections to breathe.

Mussorgsky’s music was performed with passion and the different colours created from the ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ were highlighted by the orchestra’s clear enjoyment shown in their enthusiasm for the music. The evening however was essentially brought to a climax by Nikita Boriso-Glebsky’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. His interpretation of the music and ability to move between the reflective moods and elaborate cadenzas and improvisatory passages, showed his true skills as a virtuoso.

The concert’s encore repertoire included works by Glinka (Waltz from the Opera ‘Life for the Tsar’) and Mussorgsky (Persian Girls Dance from the Opera ‘Khovanshchina’) and were received by the audience with great delight. Under the expert direction of Maestro Simonov, this concert proved to be a valuable cultural experience as well as an important insight into a Russian era of music that should never be forgotten.

Leeds International Concert Season runs into 2012 for more information go to http://www.leedsconcertseason.com

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