Russian music at Cadogan Hall

Russian music yesterday evening at Cadogan Hall (just off Sloane Square, London): played by a Russian orchestra: the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Valery Poliansky. The orchestra's own connection to the nationality of the music gave the performance something special: helped by the excellent acoustic of the hall (moderate size and warmer in tone than the Royal Festival Hall) and the absence of podiums for the brass (many halls raise the brass, and this can cause an imbalance, especially if you are sitting directly in the line of fire) the orchestral sound was warm and full-bodied, with plenty of bass but never lacking in clarity and detail. (The hall wasn't originally designed for concerts, but as a Christian Scientist church: some acoustic treatment was applied when it was converted to a concert hall, but like all the best acoustics it's more luck than design.)

The concert began with a vivid performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture, full of excitement and colour: and then Tatiana Polianskyaya (the conductor's daughter) gave a crisp and witty performance of Shostakovich's Second Piano Concerto : Shostakovich wrote this for his son Maxim, and included some established advanced five-finger exercises (as the only way of getting his son to practise them) and a lively final movement which includes a theme in the unusual time signature of 7/8.

Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony - the 'Pathétique' - is so well-known that performances tend to be regarded as routine: not this one - riveting, committed, and played with a stunning precision, Poliansky made this a memorable experience. The third movement in particular, the exciting march, demonstrated very fast runs by the strings played in perfect synchronization, and a tightness of control combined with warmth of tone.

The hall is nearer the size that Tchaikovsky would probably have expected, rather than huge modern halls which often have a drier and brighter acoustic, and this entire concert was something special: well worth braving the cold wind and the District Line for.

Posted: Fri - February 13, 2009 at 10:25 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM