Titans of Russian Classical Music Performed at the Marlowe

By Amitesh Das

Pianist Valentina Lisitsa alongside the Philharmonia, gave audiences at the Marlowe the beautiful segue into spring. From the treat that is Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest, to the headline of the show Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Musical Pictures succeeds in showcasing theincredible versatility of the Philharmonia, while showcasing the sheer talent that Lisitsa possesses.

Founded in 1945, it is one of the world’s most foremost orchestras, putting across a dynamic range of shows not only in the UK, but across Asia, Europe and USA. The night commenced with Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest, a thrilling composition based on the work of William Shakespeare. Conductor Alpesh Chauhan does the piece justice, highlighting the strong theme of love music that the piece evokes. The intensity of the piece is what stood out to me the most, mitigating the long-form nature of the piece itself - something which Chauhan should be given credit for. Not having seen Valentina Lisitsa live before, I was thoroughly amazed. Her journey is one that deserves respect, rising from the humble (and densely populated, I must say) world of YouTube into an almost sold out Royal Albert Hall. Her collaboration on this night justifies this trajectory. Along with the Philharmonia, she leads with Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, bringing across an incredibly cheerful ambiance to the composition - something that a Shostakovich composition wouldn’t usually evoke. Lisitsa’s impeccable technique comes across strongly during the solo section in the first movement of the piece, where she plays a beautiful solo which the orchestra joins in with, ending the first movement with the piano flying with tremolos. Once the orchestral piece ends, the roaring applause calls for an encore, where the pianist impresses the audience with a beautifully delicate interpretation of Chopin.

The finale of the night is Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a suite of 10 paintings that Mussorgsky translates into music, each of its sections creating an image. The instrumentation of this piece was something that Chauhan manages to highlight well, creating a distinctive mood for each of the sections. While this piece was originally composed for the piano (making me wonder if Lisitsa would have done this better), the orchestral version doesn’t take away from the music at all.

The entire piece is united by a ‘Promenade’ theme, which is supposed to be an interpretation of the composer walking through an exhibition, where he sees a variety of different pictures and artistic works - all of which have their individual themes. Overall, the night didn’t fail to enthrall the audience. The Philharmonic’s talented musicians took the stage with Chauhan’s interpretation of The Tempest, only to lead to an incredibly talented Valentina Lisitsa displaying her sheer brilliance with Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with the support of the orchestra. The night’s finale uses the orchestra to its limits, displaying a very well arranged rendition of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Images courtesy of Songkick and Ents24

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