About Us | Advertise | Contact Us
Brighton.co.uk - All things Brighton
  Brighton search

The Brighton Magazine

Selected Brighton Magazine Article
Wednesday 23 May 2012


Philharmonia Orchestra @ Brighton Festival: Powerful All-Russian Programme Proved Great Art Wins Out

All good journalists know that a review should be short, not a history lesson, not too academic and certainly not full of quotes from the programme. Also they should not pre-judge what will be the best single item from a festival that has not yet finished.

Guess what? I am about to smash those rules apart, but stick with me - this will be interesting. Oh, and it’s the best thing at the Festival this year.

This is a review of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 13 in B flat minor op.113, Babi Yar and Sergey Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no.3 in C major op 26.

Suffice to say that pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii was a wonder. The Concerto no.3 is famously very hard to play and requires a lot of skill to perform, Nobuyuki held the audience in the palm of his hand.

The Philharmonia Orchestra are a great orchestra and gave him the best possible support alongside the talents of the former pianist and now conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy.

For the Shostakovich symphony, the Brighton Festival Chorus once again excelled themselves, singing in Russian with a power and precision that one expects of the great.

Sergei Aleksashkin was an incredible solo vocalist, again with a power to command the attention of an audience rapt in this incredible performance.

The Dome Concert Hall was just about sold out, so who says great art does not sell seats? Who says people are so stupid they can only handle the works of Simon Cowell? Not me folks.

Great art will always win through and Symphony no.13 is one of the most moving and powerful works you will ever witness.



From the Programme notes by James M Keller:

“‘Yesterday the Thirteenth Symphony by Shostakovich was performed’. If you had been a Russian reading Pravda, your state sanctioned newspaper, on 19th December, 1962, that is the sum total of what you would have learned about the premiere of one of the most heroic cultural moments produced in the second half of the twentieth century. You would not have read about the cloak and dagger manoeuvres that tried to keep the performance itself from taking place, nor would you have read  about the tumultuous applause that interrupted the piece at the end of the first movement.

…Symphony no.13 derived from an event on Soviet History…one that nobody wanted to talk about; The Nazis 1941 massacre of civilians, most of whom were Jewish, in the Baba Yar ravine in the north west outskirts of Kiev (in the Ukraine).

On the 29
th and 30th of September they marched every Jew they could round up to the Babi Yar ravine and…shot them at the edge of the cliff in groups of ten. According to the official Nazi count the execution toll of those two days amounted to 33,771…the majority of Ukrainians in the area proved enthusiastic, lending assistance to the occupying enemy. In the weeks that followed the Ukrainians turned over many thousands of Jews, as well as Gypsies psychiatric patients and other targets of Nazi eradication.“

Fourteen Jewish men escaped a working party in 1943 that was detailed with burning the rotting bodies to hide this terrible crime.

They told the world about what happened. But the Soviet authorities wanted to keep the matter quiet less it blur the heroism of the Great Patriotic War

This story came to the notice of Yevgeny Yevtushenko a dissident Soviet poet, who wrote his poem Baba Yar, it was then set to music by Shostakovich as the Symphony no.13.



This was a brave move.

The poem Babi Yar opens with the words:

“There is no memorial above Babi Yar.
The Steep ravine is like coarse Tombstone.
I’m Frightened,
I feel as old today,
as the Jewish race itself.
I feel now that I am a Jew.”


It goes on:

“I am behind bars, I am encircled,
persecuted, spat on, slandered,
and fine ladies with lace frills
squeal and poke their parasols in my face”


But why would these two men, poet and composer, identify so closely with this tragedy?

It seems to me that there are other factors at play concerning the state of the nation that the two men lived in.

Both had been oppressed by the Soviet system, Shostakovich was in constant fear of execution for many years under Stalin’s rule.

It seems that a sense of identification with the persecuted is at play here, this is empathy and not sympathy.

“I feel as though I am slowly turning grey.
And I become a long soundless scream,
above the thousands and thousands buried here,
I am each old man who was shot here,
I am each child who was shot here
Let the ‘International’ thunder out
When the last anti-semite on the earth
Has finally been buried.”


And later he talks of a state where:

“Fears slithered everywhere, like shadows,
penetrating every floor…
when we should have kept silent - they taught us to scream,
and to keep silent – when we should have screamed…
the secret fear of a knock at the door.”


Later he argues that men who choose to hide the truth to further their careers at the time and keep in with the powers that be will be doomed to obscurity and become objects of hate. Instead it is those who stand up for truth who have a true ‘career’.

Is there really anyone left who says that this is not a great and under performed work of art?

Awesome.


by: Howard Young (Arts Editor)



Related Images


   

Subject to conditions local councillors have said they are ‘minded to grant’ plans to convert the Grade 2-star listed Brighton Hippodrome into an eight-screen cinema.
 
The iconic theatre in Middle Street, may have been noted for shows where 'the entire programme was eminently wholesome in tone,' but by the mid... more >>


A replica of the iconic Lambretta scooter ridden by actor Phil Daniels - aka 'Jimmy' - in the cult motion picture Quadrophenia is to be offered as part of Bonhams Beaulieu sale on 6th September.

Released in 1979, the film, which centred  around Jimmy's trips to Brighton,  follows Daniels' character Jimmy, a young working ... more >>


Some of the strongest female crime writers - co-incidentally all based in Brighton andSussex - will gather for a special event at Waterstones Brighton on Thursday evening.

Inspired by the bestselling book Gone Girl, which has put psychological thrillers by women centre stage in the world of books, t... more >>


Following the postponement of the planned last ever performance of Bryony Kimmings' Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, new dates have been announced for 23 and 24 July at Brighton Dome. 

The 3 July show was cancelled when 11 year Taylor (who performs in the show) went down with the Norovirus just an hour before she was due ... more >>


Brighton-based ONCA Trust have embarked on their first research expedition with a crew of artists and researchers, setting sail across the Northern Atlantic, on the search for great whales and dolphins.

"Outside, the wind is blowing. Waves with white tops splash onto the walkways and clouds like giant black bowling balls hang heavily above the... more >>


With just a few weeks to go until the Festival gates open (22nd to 24th August), the line-up for the Alternative Stage at Reading & Leeds has been announced. 

On top of the already huge line-up including headliners Queens Of The Stone Age, Paramore, Arctic Monkeys and Blink 182 comes a hos... more >>


The Brighton Sand Sculpture Festival has created a gigantic training shoe out of sandfor the Chestnut Tree House children's hospice, who are based in Sussex.

The trainer, which used 3 tonnes of sand, took 12 hours to carve and measures 1.9m x 2m was created especially to celebrate the Chestnut Tree Hou... more >>


South East Dance has won funding to continue to lead innovative dance projects in Brighton's Circus Street over the next two years, helping to improve the emotional and physical wellbeing of people in one of the country’s most deprived wards. 

A wide-reaching programme of dance activity is already taking place in Circus Street Market, which once housed Brighton's old municipal ma... more >>


If you want a feel good hit of the summer look no further than All We've Got Is Now, by Brighton's very own mysterious studio-based combo, The Raving Beauties. 

Think surf, think beaches, think long heat-filled days of youth and young manhood, and more than anything think Brighton's 60s Mod-h... more >>


A new acting school backed by Dakota Blue Richards, the star of The Golden Compass film, that will give children and teenagers the training to work professionally in stage and screen, has been set up in Brighton. 

The Young Actors Group will run weekly two hour drama classes for children and tee... more >>


Headlines
Search our archives for what's on and gone for the best of this city's theatre music comedy news and much more...