St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra Review
Typical of Russian orchestras they come on together, and leading them on to the stage is their concertmaster, Lev Klychkov. He is in charge of tuning up and looks like a force to be reckoned with. A highly respected violin soloist, he has been in post since 1999. Many years earlier he had served in the Russian army for a short time. The men are in white tie and tails. The women of the strings, wearing black, are by and large sitting together. They had come from St Petersburg and had already enjoyed sell-out concerts in London and Birmingham. They were going on to Manchester and Leeds.
Prokofiev was twenty seven when he wrote his Classical Symphony - classical because it follows the form of an eighteenth century symphony with four movements. It was immediately clear that Yuri Temirkanov, the revered conductor, had his own special way of drawing real expression out of his players. By his arm movements, at one moment he might have been directing traffic and another gathering together ingredients on a kitchen table - but it was his engaging smile of encouragement and assurance that showed he and his players were totally at one albeit in a very Russian way.
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 takes a great deal of energy from the pianist and has some extraordinarily fast finger movements as it comes to a climax. Nobody was better qualified to show us how it should be played than Dmitri Alexeev. Born in Moscow in 1947 he won the Leeds Piano Competition in 1975 and is now a Professor at the Royal College of Music. Even he looked slightly exhausted after an enthralling performance.
The best was yet to come after the interval. Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5 was first performed in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, by the Orchestra in 1937 under Yevgeny Mravinsky. It was a huge success from day one and the performance we heard justified all that is said about it. The Usher Hall was full - and this was the concert everybody had come to hear. By the comments I overheard on the way out, it lived up to everything expected of it.
Event: Thursday 29 March 2012 7.30pm