A colourful start to the Bury Festival

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, Bury St Edmunds Festival, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Sunday May 16

The Bury St Edmunds Festival normally provides a welcome opportunity to hear a concert by a large symphony orchestra from somewhere in the world, and this year it was the turn of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra.

Their one hundred or so players squeezed onto the staging at St Edmundsbury Cathedral to play a popular programme to a packed audience. A spirited rendition of Borodin’s well known Polovtsian Dances from ‘Prince Igor’ started the proceedings, and this was followed by the Violin Concerto by American composer Philip Glass (b. 1937), with the twenty-two-year-old soloist Chloe Hanslip.

Whilst eschewing electronics, so often found in Glass’s characteristically repetitive minimalist works, the composer’s melodic, rhythmic and timbral thumbprints were immediately apparent in this unconventional concerto, and the soloist gave a beautiful performance which was so well received that she played a short, unaccompanied and extremely virtuosic encore from the film ‘The Red Violin’.

In the second half of the concert the orchestra found itself very much at home, giving an outstanding performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no.5 in E minor, a work with plenty of melodic beauty, dynamic and tonal drama, all of it wrapped up in the composer’s rich and skilful orchestration.

This was a passionate, powerful and exciting performance, again much appreciated by the audience, whose enthusiasm was rewarded by two encores, by Katchaturian and Glazunov respectively, bringing a great concert to a colourful close.

Wynn Rees

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