Russian Masters

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Thursday 31 October 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Vassily  Sinaisky   conductor

Ekaterina Scherbachenko  soprano

Vsevolod Grivnov  tenor

Elchin Azizov  baritone

CBSO Chorus  

Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture 16′

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 31′ 

Rachmaninov: The Bells (sung in Russian, with English surtitles) 37′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

“Hear   the bells ring out, with their singing and ringing… they tell of oblivion.”    For Sergei Rachmaninov, the sound of bells embodied the soul of Old Russia.   Judging from the spectacular finish of his 1812 Overture, Tchaikovsky   agreed – though you haven’t really heard 1812 until you’ve heard it performed   with full chorus! Then Shostakovich’s fiery First Symphony provides the upbeat   to The Bells: music of heartfelt joys and deep, dark sorrows which uses   the bells of childhood, marriage, war and death to chart our journey through   life. Tonight’s soloists from the Bolshoi Theatre have it in their blood.

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Russian Classics, Thursday 9th January 2014

Tuned In: Shostakovich’s Fifth, Saturday 8th March 2014



Review by Verity Quaite, BachTrack:

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…     “Opening with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, in the version for chorus and orchestra, was a bold move. With any performance of such a well-known piece, the pressure is on from the outset to deliver an exceptional performance. The CBSO did not disappoint. The CBSO chorus were utterly fantastic, displaying their dexterity with an extreme contrast between their solemn, a cappella entry and the brash, triumphant re-entry at the climax of the piece. The percussion were perfectly overdramatic and similarly the soloists – particularly cellist and flautist – were nothing short of exceptional. My one criticism is that although this was a brilliant opening, it felt more like an ending. How to follow a performance such as this?

And yet with Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 1 in F minor, the orchestra managed it. As with the Tchaikovsky, the opening was stunning. Shostakovich treats the orchestra like a series of soloists, and this aspect was executed faultlessly, with each performer complementing and not overshadowing their colleagues. As a whole, the orchestra effectively captured the shifting mood of the piece aptly and the waltz section was particularly lovely. Without wishing to make this review sound like a laundry list by naming each of them individually, I think it is only fair to recognise that each soloist performed remarkably well.”     …



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The scherzo is a choral tour-de-force and the CBSO Chorus rose to the challenge magnificently, vividly depicting the bells’ “brazen inferno” and “tormented sounds”. In the funereal finale – the inexorable pace recalling Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead – the baritone Elchin Azizov was superb, railing and raging against the dying of the light. The performance was expertly marshalled by conductor Vassily Sinaisky and chorus masters Simon Halsey and David Lawrence.

The CBSO Chorus’s presence in Tchaikovsky’s Overture 1812 – where their patriotic hymn replaced the opening string melody and returned for the peroration – restored gravitas and dignity to a work often mistreated as an excuse of pyrotechnics. Shostakovich’s first symphony, a precociously dazzling teenage romp, was crisply projected with playing full of character, not least from the CBSO’s leader Zoë Byers.”     …