It was great to see The Stag Theatre so full on Sunday afternoon for Sevenoaks Symphony Orchestra's 'Russian Classics' concert. Not only was it full, but there were people of all ages present and a brilliant community feel. The intimacy of The Stag Theatre added to this atmosphere; it was a nice change to be able to see the orchestra clearly whilst they were playing, unlike at many of the major concert halls where it can be difficult to feel a part of the action in this way.
The programme was well curated, a journey through Russian masterpieces courtesy of the likes of Rimsky-Korsakov and Prokofiev. The first piece, the Overture to Glinka's A Life for the Tsar, was a great start to the concert, the warmth of the cello section transporting me to St Petersburg's Nevsky Prospect. I could hear the Tsars walking through the bejeweled corridors of the Winter Palace.
The next piece, Flight of the Bumblebee by RimskyKorsakov, is notoriously difficult but the orchestra's strings excitingly created the sound of the buzz of the bees' wings. Equally impressive was the flute section's quick chromatic movements whilst keeping a beautiful lower register: a difficult feat.
The centre of the concert was Prokofiev's 2nd Violin Concerto, played by the superb soloist Michael Foyle. It is easy to see why he was awarded a first class degree from the prestigious Royal College of Music from the very first eight bars of the first movement introducing the winding and mysterious main theme; his tone was captivating in both the lower and upper registers. But, it was the opening of the slow movement in which orchestra and soloist worked together most beautifully. The performance was received to rapturous applause.
After Prokofiev's dense Violin Concerto, we were treated to Tchaikovsky's famous 5th Symphony in E minor. The conductor, Darrell Davison, coaxed a lush sound out of the strings which exuded Russian romanticism. I particularly enjoyed the horn solo at the start of the second movement: if I was listening on my computer, I would have stopped the music there and restarted the track to listen to the horn all over again. As it said in the excellent programme notes, the waltz of the third movement was 'every bit as elegant as the famous examples in Tchaikovsky's three great ballets.' The Finale was convincing and a fitting end to a great afternoon of music.