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Performer: Yuri Simonov

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A not so brief encounter with the Moscow Phil

Yuri Simonov © Ivan Smirnov
An earthy – if slow – Pictures at an Exhibition from Yuri Simonov and the Moscow Philharmonic in Basingstoke is like a musical step back in time. 

Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich with an authentic Russian accent from the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra

© Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Though impressively performed by the Moscow players, conductor Yuri Simonov's interpretative choices did not always convince in Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony.

Moscow Philharmonic and Yuri Simonov: Mussorgsky and Rachmaninov in Manchester

© Wilfried Hösl

The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra enjoyed an evening of youthful exuberance in the Bridgewater Hall with an all-Russian programme, conducted with grace and refinement by Yuri Simonov.

Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain explicitly paints what the composer called “Spirits of darkness...and the Black Mass” in a progressively wild orgy before the bells of dawn break the scene. Simonov opted for a generally slow but quite variable tempo through the majority of the piece, in contrast to the common tendency to push for a firmly brisk pace in many readings. This was an interesting adjustment, removing any risk of seeming formulaic with such a popular piece, but added little to the sense of untamed nature. It did make some of the themes suggest folk music, particularly in the oboe/bassoon duet passages. The orchestral playing was as passionate as could be expected: plenty of brassy bite and roars from the percussion section. The dawn passage gave the string section its first opportunity of the evening to display its wonderful sound; rich and full in tone, filling the large hall without straining.