RSNO Scheherazade, Usher Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
photo credit Chris Hart
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Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Lera Auerbach, Icarus; Shostakovich, Cello Concerto No 1; Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade.
Thomas Søndergård (conductor), Pei-Jee Ng (cello)
Running time

There was a Russian theme to this evening's concert. It was a privilege to have Lera Auerbach, the composer of the first work in the programme, tells us about her multi-talented life and times at the pre concert talk. A conductor, pianist and composer, she has published three books of poetry in Russian and now, in English, a book on aphorisms. She then came on stage to describe her Icarus as based on the myth of the young winged boy who dared to fly too close to the sun. In listening to the work she told us not only to look out for the sound of the theremin but that we were allowed to take our imagination whereever it went. With that permission Icarus was all the more enjoyable. Maybe one day we'll be treated to the full symphony of which this was just a quarter.

Shostakovich's first Cello Concerto was first heard in 1959 in an atmosphere of desperate frustration with Soviet authoritarainism. It's an angry work and not the easiest work for the Orchestra's recently appointed Principal Cello, Pei-Jee Ng, to demonstrate his skill as its soloist. But his performance was splendid. Pei-Jee Ng started life in Australia before coming to Manchester and then the Royal Academy of Music, along the way winning competitions and gaining accolades.

After the interval another Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakov.  The Orchestra's esteemed Music Director Thomas Søndergård conducted the much loved and comfortable Scheherazade which was first heard in St Petersburg in 1888. The Orchestra's Leader, Maya Iwabuchi, momentarily seemed to take control on her violin as the first movement merged directly into the second. Thomas Søndergård looked her way but rapidly realised what was happening - normal, but a little faster perhaps than he expected.

A very fine Russian evening and a great introduction to the Principal Cellist.

Event: Friday 1st December 2023 at 7.30pm