Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra – Russia: Tsar & Soviet Concert

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Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra – Russia: Tsar & Soviet Concert

St David’s Hall
Sunday 26th November 2017

Ask any good comrades in Cardiff and they will tell you how much of Russia17 has been taking place around the city. We’ve been spoiled with Russian operas, plays and concerts for over two months. Yet, are we regretting this
Russian Revolution of our own?

Here was Cardiff University’s offering from their Symphony Orchestra. Another interesting fare, which was occasionally marred by black pearls within the orchestra, by that I mean several glaring mistakes from the musicians. They braced on anyhow.

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture is famous fodder. It tells the cliched story of battling youths of Verona, juxtaposed with the love of the lead characters. Here the great Russian shines in thrilling music, some of the best ever inspired by Bard. The famous Love Theme is iconic and swells with throbbing urges, through its heartfelt melody. It’s standard concert fare.

Up next was a festive treat. Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite is the soundtrack for Aleksandr Faintsimmer’s film. It’s a delightful affair, detailing five moments from the fictitious Lieutenant’s life. Also featuring a famous passage, the Troika (a Russian sleigh) is a Christmass vision, famously used by Greg Lake in I Believe In Father Christmas (one of my favourite Xmas songs, due to the Prokofiev). It’s a wonderful part, featuring slight bells and tingling strings, relentlessly plucking and swaying the melody forward, like the sleigh itself. The final funeral movement is a sombre end to the suite, regal in its pomp and morbidity.

Ending as we stared, Tchaikovsky and his 2nd Symphony was our leaving gift. Surprisingly heard much less than his more famous 4th, 5th and 6th symphonies, the 2nd is noteworthy for being just as interesting as the rest of them. Known as the “Little Russian”, it’s an ambitious score lasting 45 minutes and has daring passages from the young composer. It’s great to hear one of his lesser-known works and the finale is a highlight, featuring numerous fake climaxes: just when you think it’s all coming to an end, he deceives you by keeping it going. He’s clever like that and he even does the same leading into the last moment of his 6th Symphony as well.

Rating: ***

Photo Credit: Cardiff University School of Music Website

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Photo Credit: Cardiff University School of Music Website

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