Preview of the Russian State Philharmonic

Tuesday 13 February 2018

The soloist in Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto will be the renowned Ukrainian virtuoso, Valentina Lisitsa.

The concert opens with the Suite from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty ballet. From its powerfully stated opening to the full symphonic mode of the concluding waltz [a movement which would have made its composer famous had he written only this] the Suite is unashamedly Romantic, and we will no doubt simply marvel, as ever, at Tchaikovsky’s overwhelmingly seductive melodies and his seemingly endless ability to create music of such spellbinding power.

Tchaikovsky actually came to receive an honorary degree at Cambridge in 1893, marking the 50th anniversary of The Cambridge University Musical Society (‘CUMS’). A photograph exists of him in his robes in Market Hill during a visit which saw him entertained at King’s College, go to the Fitzwilliam Museum and conduct his own Francesca da Rimini at The Guildhall.

Imagine the stir this would cause today, perhaps letting one’s imagination wander to envisage the queues round the block for tickets!

Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto has the reputation of being the classical pianist’s Waterloo. Although some maintain that there are other concertos equally challenging, Rachmaninov’s fellow countryman, friend and confidant Vladimir Horowitz held the opinion that this was of all, in fact, the most difficult to play.

And, as perhaps the greatest pianist of the twentieth century who effectively ‘owned’ the piece, he was in a position to know. Rachmaninov, a member of the audience at Horowitz’s performance at The Hollywood Bowl in 1942 mounted the stage and declared: ‘This was the way I have always dreamed my concerto should be played, but I never expected to hear it that way on Earth.’

A hard act to follow, therefore. But Valentina Lisitsa’s formidable reputation precedes her, and we eagerly anticipate that feeling of excitement a great pianist can generate, as well as being able to appreciate anew the composition’s beauty in her interpretation of it.

The evening will conclude with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony whose theme is broadly the circumscription of human happiness by the darkness of circumstance.

The opening brass fanfare recalls the first four notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony [‘Thus Fate knocks at the door’ in the words of its composer], the massive range of the lengthy first movement being every bit a match for it.

A succession of Russian folk melodies leads to the spirited finale whose explosive opening is enough to make audiences almost jump out of their seats. The troubling theme announced by the initial fanfare recurs once more in this movement, but this time only to be replaced by the joyful assertiveness with which the symphony comes to a conclusion.

We can expect that The Russian State Philharmonic will stamp its authoritative mark on this, as on the two preceding works, in an exciting concert on no account to be missed.

The Russian State Philharmonic perform at Cambridge Corn Exchange on Wednesday 7 March. To find out more and to book tickets click HERE