Russian State Symphony Orchestra

Leeds Town Hall

ARAM Khatchaturian’s Masquerade Suite opened this Leeds Town Hall sell-out from the Russian State Symphony Orchestra “Evgeny Svetlanov” - to apply the band’s full moniker. The tall, willowy figure of Ukraine born conductor Valentin Uryupin coaxed a rich, muscular tone from the strings in the well known Waltz. Uryupin released the rhythmic energy of the exuberant Galop and he gave searing brass and thrilling percussion full rein to bring this popular work to a boisterous climax.

Khatchaturian attracted less opprobrium from the Soviet authorities than his illustrious contemporary Dmitri Shostakovich. The latter’s Piano Concerto No 2 represents a shaft of light four years after the death of Stalin in 1953. A jaunty opening theme decorated by humorous flourishes from the bassoons sets the tone of this engagingly youthful concerto. It was first performed by Shostakovich’s son, Maxim, on his 19th birthday - May 10, 1957. This evening’s soloist, Barry Douglas, displayed his consummate mastery of the driving rhythms in the opening movement and the ebullient circus-style finale. The renowned Irish pianist was partnered by Uryupin and the RSSO with a certain buoyancy, wit and - in the wistful Andante - sublime delicacy.

Sergei Rachmaninov conducted his Symphony No 2 in E minor in this very Hall during the 1910 Triennial Musical Festival. The new symphony was very well received and yet almost seventy years would pass before the four movements were played without cuts. Ecstatic applause greeted the RSSO’s performance, conducted by Valentin Uryupin with an acute sense of the work’s blend of brooding melancholy and saccharine-sweet lyricism. Elgar’s Salut d’Amour was played as an encore.

Geoffrey Mogridge