Romantic Russian music comes to St Albans Abbey on Saturday June 25th with performances of some of the most colourful and passionate scores ever composed for orchestra (7.30pm). Yet neither of the major works featured by St Albans Symphony Orchestra in its Festival Concert under conductor Bjorn Bantock is as totally Russian as it seems.
Pictures at an Exhibition was composed for the piano by Mussorgsky in 1874 as a musical realisation of paintings by Victor Hartmann, an architect friend who had recently died. But the suite’s enduring popularity is largely due to the brilliant orchestration of the work that the French composer Ravel made in the 1920s – not least its stirring finale depicting The Great Gate of Kiev. Other pictures famously include a ballet of canary chicks hatching from their eggs and the fearsome witch Baba Yaga hunting children from her hut on fowl’s legs
Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony takes listeners on another tuneful and richly orchestrated journey that leads from brooding melancholy to an ardently lyrical slow movement and a triumphant finale. Although premiered in the composer’s homeland in 1908, the symphony was actually written in Germany, during a period of self-imposed exile. Like the Second and Third Piano Concertos, its melodic inspiration has made it a firm favourite with audiences.
Completing SASO’s Festival programme will be The Enchanted Lake, a tone poem by a third Russian composer, Liadov. Although never able to fulfil his potential as a composer, his short musical account of a misty, moonlit lake is delicate and highly atmospheric.
Tickets price £20, £16 and £12 (reserved), £10 (unreserved), £1 (accompanied children) and £5 (students) are available from the SASO Ticket Secretary (01727 857422), from the Abbey Box Office (01727 860780) or from allaboutstalbans.com.
Written by David Utting, SASO