Russian Philharmonic Orchestra – Review – Hull City Hall
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra – Review
Hull City Hall, May 2019
by Karl Hornsey
The Russian Philharmonic returned to Hull City Hall for a concert featuring three much-loved pieces by Russian composers, under the guidance of renowned conductor Thomas Sanderling, and joined by award-winning pianist Sergei Redkin.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Capriccio Espagnol’ got proceedings under way in wonderful fashion, grabbing the audience from the start and simply never letting up. The sheer vibrancy and liveliness of the piece, featuring so many instruments, always marks this out as a favourite that was almost guaranteed a rousing reception, and this time was no exception.
The composer was clearly influenced by his travels to Spain and South America and joined the vogue of the late 19th century to write pieces inspired by traditional Spanish music and dance. With lead violin Valeriy Karchagin on sparkling form the orchestra clearly loved playing this crowd pleaser, right up to the final movement, the rousing ‘Fandango Asturiano’.
The second piece brought to the stage Siberian-born pianist Sergei Redkin for one of the most famous of all piano concertos, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Piano Concerto No 1’. Tchaikovsky revised the composition two or three times, but seemed relatively happy with his work once he received confirmation from Nikolai Rubinstein that the changes he’d made resulted in a piece of genuine delight. The concerto is one that sounds familiar to even the lightest of classical music fans, and has been used in popular modern culture in areas as wide ranging as the opening ceremony of the 1980 Summer Olympics, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and cult films Harold and Maude, and Misery.
This is much more than merely a piano concerto and one of the keys to its success is the interaction between the pianist, in this case the supremely talented Redkin, and the rest of the orchestra. It was no surprise to see Redkin invited back to the stage for an encore, such was the delight with which the audience received the piece, but credit must also go the woodwind, brass and timpani sections.
The final piece of the evening was ‘Pictures of an Exhibition’ by Mussorgsky, orchestrated by Ravel in 1922. The composition was inspired by Mussorgsky’s friendship with artist and architect Viktor Hartman, whose early death led to the composer wanting to honour him in some way, and coming up with the idea of a piece in 10 movements, depicting 10 of Hartman’s artworks, only five of which survive to this day.
This does lend the piece an air of randomness and there’s no denying it’s an eclectic composition that shifts from one style to another and then to yet another, with only the thread of the famous Promenade to hold it together. That said, it certainly works. It may be a random and very distinctive work, but if you sit back and just go with it, it’s a wonderful piece for the musicians to play and for the audience to appreciate. ‘The Promenade’ remains the most well-known section of the piece and a final encore was the order of the day, such was the appreciation offered up to Sanderling and the orchestra.