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St Petersburg Revelations

MALCOLM MILLER attends UK premières
of recent Russian music in London


The sheer expressive punch of a Russian music, epitomised by the biting dissonances and rhapsodic outpourings of a Gubaidulina or Denisov or the poly-stylistic nostalgia of Schnittke is a unique and memorable experience. Yet the context within which these major composers emerged from is sometimes overlooked and unfamiliar, and it was therefore a special and, in the event, a moving treat to hear UK premières of music by less well known contemporary Russian composers, in their presence, at the recent 'St Petersburg's Revelations' Festival.

Evgenia Jakubowsky

This three-day festival of lectures and concerts, held in London on 13-15 December 2001 was presented by Musica Nova Productions, under the direction of the singer and pianist Evgenia Jakubowski, who studied in St Petersburg with Vladimir Uspensky, a former pupil of Shostakovich, whose works were strongly featured. The Artistic Director was the young British conductor Alexander Walker, who, as principal guest conductor of the Voronezh State Symphony Orchestra of Russia, is also an expert in the performance of Russian music. The festival offered a fascinating and enriching glimpse into music from St Petersburg, to mark this year's Tercentenary celebrations, and was held in association with the St Petersburg authority itself. The first two concerts (13 and 14 December) were held at the Grovesnor Chapel, Mayfair, attracting a large audience to hear both Liturgical and chamber music (including 18th and 19th century choral works and the UK première of Uspensky's The Divine Liturgy), and many vocal and instrumental premières, including George Firtich's Piano Sonata No 8 and cycle Spring Songs, performed by leading British and Russian artists.

George Firtich

I attended the festival's thrilling final concert at the Conway Hall, Holborn, on 15 December, given by the young Russian Chamber Orchestra of London, a group formed in 1998, specialising in Russian music whose recent appearances included a première by Galina Ustvolskaya and Mukhmedov's Russian ballet at the Colliseum. Here they were conducted stylishly by Alexander Walker in a stimulating programme that featured premières by Vladimir Uspensky (born 1937), Andrei Petrov (born 1930) and Yuri Falik (born 1936), leading St Petersburg composers of the senior generation, framed by two Russian 'classics', Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky.

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Copyright © 23 December 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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