review of St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Thurs 12th Feb 2015.

St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra gave an inspired performance to a packed audience in the Corn Exchange last Thursday. Under the baton of Vladimir Altschuler, this orchestra wowed the listeners and it seemed that both orchestra and audience were enjoying the experience so much that they did not want it to end. Very few concerts demand three encores, but this one certainly did.
The works performed were by Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius – all touching on that special Russian essence that stirs the emotions of all nationalities. With Sibelius, as expected, his Finnish roots readily brought to mind the spreading lakes and forests of Finland especially in the second movement of his Karelia Suite.
The solo violinist, Alexander Sitkovetsky, who had studied at the Menuhin School, was amazing and there was no doubt why he was asked to play one of the encores. His performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, op 35 was the highlight of the evening. He was undoubtedly a master of double-stops and his technique and the clarity of his playing unquestionable. No matter how challenging the music, he captured its essence perfectly, with the virtuosic passages flawless and expressive, infiltrating extra spice to his performance.
The orchestra’s contribution, playing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Fantasy Overture: Romeo and Juliet’, was exciting, and passionate, creating the intensity, drama and fervour of the lovers and their tragic lives. The orchestration was particularly colourful and varied, using the timbres of the instruments to their best advantage – it could be argued that it’s definitely the strings that can most effectively evoke great moments of passion if this work and this performance is to be an example.
Shostakovich’s ‘Hamlet (Incidental Music),’ Op.32a presented six, well-defined, character-filled movements. Its success was assured by the calibre of performance by the orchestra as a whole and by the individual instruments and groups that helped to create the variety of mood and stance.
After two delightful encores, there was no doubt that this was indeed a wonderful concert.
The next event in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series will be by the European Union Chamber Orchestra at the Corn Exchange on Thursday 5th March 2015 featuring conductor Hans-Peter Hoffman and clarinettist Emma Johnson who will be playing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. The other works will be Holst’s ‘St Paul’s Suite’, ‘Two Elegiac Melodies’ by Grieg and Mozart’s ‘Symphony no. 33’. contact: http://www.cornex.co.uk

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