This season’s Sunday Classics series at the Usher Hall treats audiences to something extra special with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. It is timely that this famous orchestra should play this month, as it marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which began in St Petersburg in 1917. The orchestra is famous for having played Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony while the city was under siege in 1942. The audience is enthralled by its mesmerising performance, expertly conducted by the highly acclaimed Alan Buribayev.
It is an all-Russian line up, beginning with Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, Romeo and Juliet. This familiar yet beautiful piece is wonderfully executed, and could easily move the audience to tears. The musicians transport the audience to Shakespeare’s play, evoking the unfolding of the two lovers’ tragedy. The music is incredible.
The second part of the first half sees the orchestra joined by the renowned pianist Peter Donohoe, for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 4. Although Rachmaninov left Russia with his family in 1917 and never returned, he did begin work on this piece before the revolution began. Tonight’s soloist, who has worked with conductors and orchestras all over the world, plays superbly.
The evening concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor, first performed in St Petersburg on the 28th of October, 1893, almost 124 years to the day. This was Tchaikovsky’s final masterpiece; he died a few weeks after its premiere. It is perhaps no coincidence that in this poignant symphony he deals with the battle between life and death.
Throughout the evening, Buribayev conducts magnificently. He is not overly flamboyant, but elicits huge energy and precision throughout. His management of the dynamics is excellent. It is a joy to watch him, and when the strings rise in crescendo, it is nothing short of wonderful. The audience applauds loudly with shouts of “bravo”. It is refreshing to see such a wide range of ages in this audience, encouraged by the £10 ticket for students. What a lovely way to end a weekend!