Join the Revolution!
St David’s Hall
October – November 2017
THE prestigious R17 Festival features eight captivating concerts at St David’s Hall over the next two months with a diverse programme celebrating the great Russian composers.
2017 is the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and this exciting city-wide festival perfectly captures the social and cultural explosion of the era as well as its historic connections with Wales.
Arts organisations and venues including Wales Millennium Centre and National Museum of Wales are collaborating to provide a cultural reflection of the strong historic resonance between the Revolution and the radical traditions of the South Wales valleys.
Immediate links were forged with the emerging Soviet Union. Letters were sent from Lenin himself to miners and the foundations of the first UK Communist Party were established in the valleys. Maerdy was even renamed “Little Moscow”, the red flag flew at pitheads, and the area’s socialist sympathies produced several important Communist trade unionists. Historians have noted how the Russian Revolution was uniquely celebrated in Wales, and how its impact was felt for years later.
The fearsome machines and indomitable spirit of the workers in Mosolov’s Iron Foundry ballet score provides a suitably dramatic opening to the Shostakovich 12 concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Thursday 12 October). Shostakovich’s Symphony No 12 follows suit with an unusually patriotic depiction of Lenin’s life commissioned by the Communist Party to honour the Revolution. Beethoven’s Emperor concerto also continues the grand theme with his noblest score since his Eroica.
Meanwhile, the International Concert Series starts in style the following week with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra (Tuesday 17 October) featuring the iconic John Lill CBE. Cavorting witches on Midsummer’s night are brilliantly evoked in Mussorgsky’s devilish A Night on the Bare Mountain.
Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous, yet rarely performed Second Piano Concerto is by turns tender and turbulent, and inhabits one of the most serenely lyrical movements in the concerto repertoire.
Likewise, Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra (Friday 20 October) begin their 2017/18 season with From Russia…With Love. The centre-piece of this concert is the Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 featuring the 2014 BBC Young Musician of the Year, Martin James Bartlett as soloist. This much-loved work is equally associated with Russian romance as it is with steam trains and the classic British film Brief Encounter. Elsewhere, the sumptuous Adagio from Khachaturian’s Spartacus conjures images of the great sailing ships of TV’s The Onedin Line, whilst Stravinsky’s wildly colourful ballet Petrushka sees three puppets spring to life!
Then it’s time to indulge with The Hallé (Wednesday 1 November), who deliver a powerful programme of Ravel, Debussy and Mussorgksy. Ravel’s Spanish-Basque heritage is heard to striking effect in the exotically charged Rapsodie Espagnole and in his orchestral showpiece Bolero. Sergio Castello López performs Debussy’s Rhapsody No 1 for Clarinet & Orchestra, and there’s Ravel’s magnificent arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
The following week sees the acclaimed Serbian-American pianist Ivan Ilić (Tuesday 7 November) offer beautiful recitals of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Plus, the best part about this wonderful Lunchtime Concert is that it’s ‘Pay What You Will!’ All you need to do is turn up in time for the 1pm performance and pay what you feel is appropriate.
There’s also an afternoon concert from the Royal Welsh College Symphony Orchestra (Sunday 19 November) at 3pm. Prokofiev’s drastic rewrite of the burnt Piano Concerto No 2 is one of the most formidable and demanding of all piano concertos. Mussorgsky’s epic Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov sees Russian people celebrate their new Tsar amid a torrent of ecstatic bell-ringing before the concert concludes with Stravinsky’s hypnotically beautiful Symphony of Psalms.
Furthermore, there’s no shortage of song and symphony from the Welsh National Opera Orchestra (Thursday 23 November) withfour richly-scored and moving songs by Gustav Mahler (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen – Songs of a Wayfarer). By sharp contrast, Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony resonates with the rhythms of war. The Leningrad became a symbol of Russian defiance when in August 1942 a half-starved and heroic orchestra played it through loudspeakers to the surrounding German forces in one of the deadliest sieges in history.
Last but by no means least is Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra (Sunday 26 November) perform Russia: Tsar and Soviet, which features classics by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. Shostakovich composed the lively Festive Overture to commemorate the Revolution’s 37th anniversary, whilst Prokofiev’s film score to Lieutenant Kijé allowed him to compose without incurring the authorities’ wrath. Good-humoured and uplifting, Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony was inspired by folk songs heard during visits to his sister in the Ukraine.
With these eight stunning R17 concerts, there’s plenty of reasons to join the Revolution at St David’s Hall!
To book your seats, please visit
or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444