For their first concert after the Christmas season, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra have once again put together an exciting programme of Russian and Soviet composers for Friday 26th January. The three pieces set to be played are the ‘Adagio’ from Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony.
Born in modern day Georgia, Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian attended the Gnessin Musical Institute and was favoured by the regime for much of his career, barring a brief condemnation in 1948. His most enduring masterpiece, Spartacus, premiered in 1956 in Leningrad and is loosely based on the legend of the same name, set during the events of the Third Servile War c. 72 BC. The ‘Adagio’ arrives at a brief moment of peace in the ballet, but retains the echo of violence, beginning softly and building into something more forceful. Nevertheless, the melody is ultimately a delicate one, laced as it is with intricate harmonies from the strings.
Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony received an uncharitable critical reception during his lifetime, drawing criticism even from the composer himself. The four-movement piece was premiered in 1888 in St Petersburg to feelings of mixed apathy. It was undoubtedly an aspirant to the sincere Romantic school, but its last movement is a restless and jarring affair – a quality that led one Musical Courier reviewer to denounce his ‘Calmuck blood’, and the ‘slaughter, dire and bloody,’ that characterises the urgency of the finale. Since his death, the fifth symphony has been treated to an affectionate revision of critical consensus, the result of which is a rich and readily available recording history, and subsequently, a healthy and continued demand for contemporary recitals.
Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will see Boris Giltburg join the orchestra as guest pianist for the evening. The Russian-born Israeli soloist was awarded first prize at the 2013 Queen Elisabeth Competition, and has played with a number of orchestras globally, including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The second piano concerto is Shostakovich at his most tender: the Andante in particular reveals a gentle affection in its address to his nineteen year old son, for whom the concerto was a birthday present. There is plenty of room for Giltburg to move autonomously in the emotional space of the piece, and it will doubtless be the highlight of the evening.
Mikhail Tatarnikov makes his BSO debut as guest conductor this season, bringing his considerable expertise to the baton. Currently serving as the Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theatre St. Petersberg, Tatarnikov has performed at the Bastille Paris and the Opera de Monte-Carlo, and worked with world-famous soloists such as Anna Netrebko, Neil Schioff, and Vilde Frang, among others.
There are still tickets available for the performance, ranging in price from £16 to £40. The concert begins at 7:30pm in the University Great Hall on Friday, 26th January. If you’re aged between 18-25, I urge you to take advantage of the BSO’s ‘Vibes’ programme, which offers £5 tickets to concerts at Lighthouse Poole, Great Hall Exeter, Portsmouth Guildhall, and Bournemouth Pavilion. For more information, and to register for a ‘Vibes’ card, please visit: https://www.bsolive.com/vibes/
– by Thomas Gordon-Colebrooke