It is a rainy Sunday afternoon (as usual) while I make my way to the Usher Hall for a promising two hours of heartbreaking romance, passion, and Russian power. One of the few brownhaired persons surrounded by a sea of grey, I was prepared to sit back and relax and let the soft melodic tunes of the greatest of Russian composers wash over me. From the first few notes of Tchaikovsky's 'Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture' (1880), a beautiful composition exploring the feuding families and the doomed love of the star-cross'd lovers, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra steals your heart to take it on journey passed the most heartbreaking yet sensitive pieces of Russian romantic classical music. As guest of honour for this edition, the acclaimed young Romanian pianist Alexandra Dariescu enchants the audience with her performance of Rachmaninoff's 'Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18' (1901). After the final notes and applauding hands have died down, she gifts us a small piece written by a fellow countryman to warm our hearts through the interval – with genuine glee she plays us a 'Romanian Dance'. It won't be the last time that day the orchestra pierces our hearts with emotion and show how incredible human and sincere their perfomance is.
The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra's ability to alternate power and passion equally comes to a galvanising close with the storming energy of Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony. Toying between piano and forte, conductor Yuri Simonov, leading the orchestra since 1998, highlights the incredible mastery of technique each musician has over their instrument. Together with brilliantly excecuted solos, the orchestra demonstrates how much of a well loved family and team they are. Even through the violence and sensitivity through which Shostakovich paints a savage portrait of Stalin and his terror, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra manages to enthrall us with a performance that oozes human emotion. Going truly out with a bang, Yuri Simonov and his artists turn out to be a gift that keeps on giving. With every minute of applause the audience gets rewarded with more demonstration of the orchestra's musical talents. Still full of energy after having played for close to three hours (which is even one more than programmed!) they treat us – and themselves – to Shostakovich's 'Romance' from 'The Gadfly Suite'. Afterwards, the first violin signals to the conductor that they want to do another encore and we finish off an absolutely magnificent concert with Shostakovich's playful 'Polka' from the 'Age of Gold Suite'. Now all there's left for me to say is, encore!
The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra ends their tour in the Birmingham Symphony Hall on 15 October 2019.
The Sunday Classics International Series 2019-2020 consists of seven concerts by the world's leading orchestras and soloists. For a detailed overview of the orchestras and their programme, visit www.usherhall.co.uk/sunday-classics for information and tickets.