Jakub Hrůša and the Philharmonia Orchestra paint vivid musical pictures, joined by eminent British cellist Steven Isserlis.
The drama is turned up to 11 from the very first bar of Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain, familiar to millions of music-lovers from Walt Disney’s Fantasia. This fearsome description of a witches’ Sabbath on a mountain outside Kyiv really gives the Philharmonia musicians licence to let go of their inhibitions.
The opening of Kabalevsky’s Second Cello Concerto couldn’t be more different – the cello enters with quiet pizzicato (plucked) notes, mysterious and alone. The piece runs the gamut of the cello’s expressive potential, now agitated and full of energy, now singing with heartfelt intensity. Steven Isserlis gave the London premiere of this piece back in 1981. He was due to perform it with Hrůša and the Philharmonia in 2020 – it’s sure to be worth the wait.
Mussorgsky’s best-loved work crowns this evening’s programme. It’s a musical promenade around an exhibition of paintings and designs by the composer’s friend Viktor Hartmann, encompassing country scenes, characters from Russian legend and the imposing Great Gate of Kyiv.