Russian State Symphony Orchestra

MICHAEL DRAKE St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds

MICHAEL DRAKE

> St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds

A Russian orchestra playing Russian music is hard to beat and last night the RSSO, conducted by Mark Gorrenstein in an East Anglian Festival again, immediately produced no sugary-coated romanticism but deep- rooted orchestral drama in Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture: Romeo and Juliet.

Sight lines are not good and it was rather like hearing a radio concert and watching the pictures from conveniently placed screens with the sound turned off.

This was no actual disadvantage in Shostokovitch's Chamber Symphony, In Memory of the Fascist Victims — an orchestration of the Eighth String Quartet. Apt programming in this anniversary year of remembrance.

The sombre, strong string solo of the opening largo set the mood which throughout the work was always one of darkness.

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The oft-repeated motif in the five unbroken movements became more intense and left the listener with, if not guilt, a feeling of melancholy.

Back to Tchaikovsky and the Symphony No 4 – the opening movement was one of grandeur development with strings continually giving way to quieter woodwind passages until a huge “fateful” climax.

The bitter-sweet andantino, impressive for such a large orchestra, was followed by a scherzo of brilliant pizzicato precision and preceded the finale which brought out every facet of this orchestra — musical contrasts, discipline and surging power.

Wonderful stuff, receiving prolonged acclaim. Then why, oh, why, to my bet noir — this time a Spanish encore.

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