NSO and Jaime Martín: Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky/Ravel

NSO and Jaime Martín: Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky/Ravel

Friday, 23 September 2022, 7.30pm

National Symphony Orchestra
Jaime Martín, conductor
Viktoria Mullova, violin

Shostakovich Festive Overture
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2
Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

On Culture Night, three rousing orchestral showpieces that revel in fantasy, celebrate the overthrow of tyranny, and highlights a masterpiece by the Ukrainian-born Prokofiev, as violin virtuoso Viktoria Mullova makes her long-awaited debut with the National Symphony Orchestra.

A gymnastic challenge for the violin, Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto is one of the greatest works for the instrument, putting it through its paces with acrobatic agility and poetic delicacy. The orchestral accompaniment is no less athletic and nimble, referencing the composer’s native traditional Slavic folk music and, in the dance-like delirium of its finale, the sun-scorched heat of Spain. The inspired middle movement offers lush heart-on-sleeve emotion in a graceful, long-breathed confessional by the violin.

Shostakovich’s music was shaped by lifelong conflict with his censorious Soviet paymasters. His bright, brisk Festive Overture is a brilliant, bristling, brass-led celebration of the overthrow of imperial tyranny. Loosely based on the Overture to Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Lyudmila, it was composed at speed in just three days. That energy is to the fore in vibrant, colourful music full of wit, drive and invigorating vitality, and innocent of a new terror about to reveal itself. A stirring, topical reminder that brutal oppression can be refused and resisted.

Ravel’s ravishing orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with its dazzling kaleidoscope of images populated by gnomes, quarrelling children, a strutting hut on hen’s legs, and unhatched chickens is a wonderful, fantastical collision of art gallery, cinema blockbuster and symphony orchestra as wonderfully bizarre as it is brilliantly thrilling.

Presented by National Symphony Orchestra

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