Review: Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra – Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet @ St David’s Hall

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Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra – Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet
St David’s Hall
Sunday 14th May 2017

The International Concert Season at St David’s Hall has gone from strength to strength. Looking at concert on the horizon, Grand Band from New York grace Cardiff with a concert and a masterclass. The image of having six grand pianist on the stage is extremely exciting and we all hope the marketing delivers on what is billed. With a programme of minimalists gems and music from Wales, this is an event not to miss. After this, Eric Whitacre joins the Philharmonic Orchestra for a concert featuring mostly his own compositions. With the great success of his work at the BBC Proms in 2015, this shall be another thrilling event.

A chance to hear the Moscow Phil should under no circumstance see missed. Even more so, if conducted  by Yuri Simonov who time spent with his baton is a marvel of the highest order. His choreographed conducting becomes a spectator sport of itself, his gesticulation proving this as he seems to mystically embody the scores he’s bringing to life. Even by music lovers standards, Russian standard in music are still are ruddy good time. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko is a decent start and a little orchestral work. Packed with all sort of Russian themes of the conquest of their waterways. It has it’s moments, but other tone poems of his are the real deal.

Renowned violinist Natalia Lomeiko joined the sensational orchestra for what is perhaps the most depressing violin concert ever written. Shostakovich’s First Concerto for violin, is crammed with uncertain, melancholic themes and is fraught with an unrelenting unease. Even in the faster, seemingly more upbeat movements, the menace looms and sours the mood. Having said this, Natalia’s playing is second to none. She lives the piece and I was bordering in tears, such it the impact of her playing. Her encore of one of Bach’s Bagatelle did not clear away the grey clouds.

Doing a fine job of cheering me up was the Moscow’s choice in closing music: extracts from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev. The opening to this ballet will be familiar to those who watch The Apprentice, though I wonder if Russians are aware of this. It’s a whirlwind composition, which takes the Bard to the ballet in a brilliant way. Many highlights abound, though it is Tybalt’s Death which always lingers long after.

After Romeo has killed Tybalt, the orchestra goes into hyperventilation, with jazzy and perverted qualities, framing the frenzied attacks on the audience with mad stabbing motions and aching brass. Perhaps played a little slow here, the impact is none the less just as impressive. Who would play this better?

With an incredible four encores, including a movement from Prokofiev’s First Symphony and The Flight of the Bumble Bee, this concert felt like it could have gone on and on. we as an audience would have welcome this.

A rowdy, Russian treat.

Rating: 5 stars

The International Concert Season at St David’s Hall continues with Grand Band on 23rd May 2017 and Eric Whitacre with the Philharmonic Orchestra on 2nd June 2017. Ticket still available.


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