Russian masters

Prom 40 featured music by four, if not  five, Russian composers, performed by the London Philharmonia Orchestra under their Russian principal guest conductor, Vladimir Jurowski. The first piece was the familiar Night on the Bare Mountain by Mussorgsky, orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov (the fifth Russian!)

After that opening followed a performance of Shostakovich’s first violin concerto, performed by Julia Fischer, who is German rather than Russian. The work is slightly unusual in its form. It opens with a typical, ominous, brooding Shostakovich opening movement, and has a fast movement in the middle. The final movement is mostly slow again, but features a lengthy cadenza with a loud ending sure to get the performers an ovation. Fischer’s performance went down extremely well with the prommers, with many commenting on the emotion she put into her playing. She certainly kept a face as serious as the music throughout. Then we were treated to an encore.

Following the interval, by way of light relief, came Scriabin’s Rêverie with four minutes of Romanticism. Then came Prokofiev’s third symphony. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that work before. It is dramatic, even harmonious at times, although it won’t leave you humming a tune afterwards. The third movement features a long section of squeaking strings, which gives a feeling that’s somewhere in between eerie and humorous. There is also a welcome – and quite unusual – prominent role for the tuba. The LPO put in a sterling performance, and the prommers clamoured for more, but we’d already had our encore, so that was our lot for the night.

Incidentally, does anyone know whether it’s a tradition of the LPO that the leader doesn’t come on separately to applause, as is usual for most orchestras? I seem to remember noticing this when I’ve seen them before.

Click here for full details of the concert (including Listen Again for 7 days)

Prom 40
Musorgsky, arr. Rimsky-Korsakov
A Night on the Bare Mountain
Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Scriabin Rêverie
Prokofiev Symphony No. 3 in C minor
Julia Fischer violin
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski conductor

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