The Russians are coming - with all the heavyweights

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 December, 2006, 12:00am

THE 2007 HONG KONG Arts Festival gets off to a grand start when the Moscow Philharmonic performs Shostakovich's rousing Festive Overture in the first of three richly Russian symphonic programmes under the baton of Yuri Simonov.

The all-Russian concerts, to be held on February 27, 28 and March 1 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, will feature works by Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

Highlights will be concertos performed by two distinguished Russian soloists, pianists Konstantin Lifschitz and violinist Boris Belkin, and the celebrated young Chinese pianist Shen Wenyu.

'The music we are going to perform is known all over the world,' Maestro Simonov said. 'The audience in Hong Kong is very knowledgeable and sophisticated. They have had many opportunities to hear some of the world's best artists and orchestras. We hope they will enjoy our interpretation and performances of the Russian classics.

'I even managed to include one of my own pieces into the programme,' Simonov added. 'It is a suite based on Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake music. It will be a Hong Kong premiere.

'The only theme we had in mind when planning these concerts was to feature Russian classics on all three evenings. Audiences around the world still prefer to have a Russian orchestra perform Russian music.'

The three soloists will be performing on successive evenings the Prokoviev Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor (Lifschitz), the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major (Belkin) and the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor (Shen Wenyu).

Last year, Shen won second prize at the Hong Kong International Piano Competition, the latest in a string of accolades going back to 2003, when he was the youngest prize winner at the Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition of Belgium.

'Every piece we have chosen is very strongly representative of each composer,' Simonov said.

'I am sure the audience will enjoy all these programmes because, in my mind, there is no such thing as too much Tchaikovsky or Mussorgsky.'

Maestro Simonov has been music director of the Moscow Philharmonic since 1998, and in the same year he was appointed chief guest conductor of the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra. He also conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in a controversial production of Wagner's monumental opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

This is Maestro Simonov's second concert appearance in Hong Kong. On the previous occasion he was here to conduct the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

'It was a great experience,' Simonov said. 'I had heard so much about Hong Kong and the artistic scene here prior to my first visit. When I performed with your musicians it was music making in the best form possible.'

The conductor is confident that Hong Kong audiences will take

to the Moscow Philharmonic, which is making its first appearance here.

'We hope that after our third concert your audience will be wishing there was a fourth performance by the Moscow Philharmonic,' Simonov added.