Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op.36
Masquerade – Waltz & Mazurka
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43
Ruslan and Ludmilla – Overture
Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite, Op.35 – III: The Young Prince and Princess
Swan Lake, Op.20 – [selections: Scene, Act II; Valse (Act I); Scène (Act II); Spanish Dance (Act III)]
Capriccio espagnol, Op.34
Sasha Grynyuk (piano)
London International Orchestra
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 10 April, 2011
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
A packed programme for this Gala Concert for the Children’s Burn Trust (incorporating Friends of Russian Children), and in the presence of its patron HRH Prince Michael of Kent – a lengthy playbill even without the advertised aria from “Eugene Onegin” (Vassily Savenko was ill) or ‘Hungarian Dance’ from Swan Lake. The London International Orchestra counts amongst its ranks retired professional section-leaders as well as younger players and students drawn from throughout the world, exhibiting a joie de vivre because they want to play.
It was especially pleasing to hear Sasha Grunyuk in the Rachmaninov: his performance was stunning, unforced and lucid, making a familiar piece sound fresh, accompanied by stirring playing, heartening string timbres and with details from woodwinds emerging afresh, Toby Purser displaying a keen ear for characterisation.
With Easter around the corner, the colourful Rimsky-Korsakov had provided a fitting opening – though it was the pagan aspects of Easter that the composer was exploring. Rousing stuff, and offering solo-spots for many in the orchestra. The two extracts from Khachaturian’s Masquerade (incidental music for the play) also offered contrasts: the Waltz was whimsical and the Mazurka robust. Some concerts offer no overtures these days, but after the interval was the second of the evening: Glinka’s to “Ruslan and Ludmilla”, here indulged for its fairytale and exotic ideas. In contrast was the third movement from Rimsky’s Scheherazade, a nifty choice to highlight the LIO’s seductive strings, as well as deft playing from harpist Miriam Keogh. Tchaikovsky never produced a suite from Swan Lake (seemingly he wanted to), but his publisher did, and this was almost it. For all these numbers’ familiarity this was not a performance that went through the motions. The playing was exciting. Rimsky’s showpiece Capriccio espagnol is a great mine for any orchestra. The LIO played it with panache, alert to its details and sparkling clarity. Leader John Bradbury clearly enjoyed his solos (dispatched with verve), and the closing ‘Fandango’ was a blizzard of wonderful sound.