Review: Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra - Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra Of Moscow Radio
Saint David’s Hall
Wednesday 16th October 2013
With my recent dissent for Russian related topics, it wasn’t going to stop me seeing one of their great orchestras.
Along with Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa, I knew this would be a fantastic evening, so we could put politics aside and have an enjoyable evening.
We began with Rachmaninov for the first half of the evening. His little snippet of Vocalise was a taste of things to come in the concert. It was short, sweet and may gain more attention if a singer was present, as it was an original guise. Denis Lotoev conducted in ways I have never seen before. He plucked, flung and quivered his hands and arms. Is this the Russian way of conducting? Extraordinaryâ€¦
Ogawa, who I have wanted to see in concert again for years, is a stupendous woman. As far as I’m aware, she hasn’t been back here since 2006, that time doing Rachmaninov’s 1st Piano Concerto, and the piano part in Stravinsky’s Petrushka. My love of her is unbounded. Not many players get two whole pages in a programme, detailing their credentials. She alone has raised over £20,000 for the Japan Tsunami Fund and is a keen charity worker.
Her playing of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto was the main reason for seeing this concert. Her flawless delivery and precision are the envy of all piano players. The attentiveness seen in her performance is a marvel. She never takes her eyes of the keys. I couldn’t see her hands whilst playing (I was sitting too far right for that) but you could feel the driving mechanisms that she formed around us. This was very different to Llyr Williams’ impressive take on it earlier this year. I have come round to Rachmaninov now. Like a lot of people, I have called him a romantic and soppy, yet I feel I need his music now more than ever. I guess I have become a mid-twenties sap, who wouldn’t say no to a touch of romance. There’s nothing wrong with that now is there?
In the interval, we had the chance to meet her for an autograph. I approached her and chuffed about how wonderful she is. She signed my programme and I asked for an interview with theSprout.co.uk. She smiled and gave me her email address. So we will shortly be seeing on this site, an interview with one of the best piano players of today. I can’t contain my excitement.
To bid us farewell was Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This orchestral work is what I would describe as a good romp around Arabia. Taken from the Arabian Nights, it tells the story of Scheherazade, who each night saves her life from the Sultan she has married. He intends to marry a woman each day and have her killed by nightfall (as you do). But she is different and every single night beguiles him with exotic stories and thus she is safe for one more day.
The music details her stories, and an aching violin solo is her theme. Hearing the theme numerous times and in different guises, you get a real sense of her relief that she is safe, if only for now. The orchestration is laden with some steaming and bursting oriental perfumes. I know this piece well (this is at least the fourth time hearing it live for me). The themes repeat themselves and all is meshed. It’s a corker of a 19th century orchestral work. The sound world would work very well as a ballet as well, if not already done as such.
As an encore, the audience licked its lips and we were given one of the best bits of RK's Capriccio Espagnol with castanets, tambourines and wonderful Spanish flavours.
During the applause, I had the compulsion to put my hands around my chest. Stephen Fry has asked people to strike this pose for those LGBT+ people who are suffering back in Russia because of persecution. So there’s me, doing this as everyone else is manically applauding. I’d like to think someone in the orchestra saw me and knew what it was about. That would make it all worthwhile.
Saint David Hall's International Concert Series has stared here and will be another year of joys, tears and mania. That’s just me getting to my seat.
Photo Credit: Milena Mihaylova