Moscow musicians give exhibition of class

Touring orchestras are always a highlight of the Sheffield International Concert Season and the Moscow Philharmonic did not disappoint when they played at the City Hall.

And the musicians, marshalled by conductor Yuri Botnari, managed to produce two highlights.

In the first half of the concert, the Russian maestros were aided and abetted by Belfast-born pianist Barry Douglas.

Together they gave a wonderful rendition of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2.

The piece is a seething cauldron of emotions and Douglas used all his experience to keep in on an even keel and deliver a thrilling performance.

He received thunderous applause, and returned for an encore, and the crowd rose as one again at the end of the second half after the Moscow Philharmonic’s astonishing interpretation of Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky.

Arranged by Ravel, the piece takes the listener on an imaginary musical journey through an art gallery.

The brass section was in dazzling form as the audience was treated to the piece’s 15 pictures including The Old Castle and the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. It was stunning.

In addition, the Moscow band returned to play no fewer than three encores.

Not only are they brilliant musicians but it is that spirit of generosity that marks them out as a class act.

They opened the concert with Mussorgsky’s A Night on the Bare Mountain, a charming tone poem, and kicked off the second half with Mikhail Glinka’s short but sweet Waltz Fantasy.

It is hoped there will be fireworks when the City Hall hosts its next classical music evening on Friday, November 4, when The Halle will be performing Beethoven’s Symphony No 3 and other works by Dvorak and Haydn. The baton will be lifted at 7.30pm.