© Frances Marshall

On Sunday 9 June the Orchestra performed the final concert of our 2023–24 Icons Rediscovered series with Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Elgar's Falstaff, conducted by Music Director Vasily Petrenko. It capped off our exploration of the two late-Romantic composers who came from worlds apart, but both had an extraordinary gift for melody and a deeply-felt nostalgia for a world that was rapidly fading upon the coming of modernity.

All photos © Frances Marshall

Opening with Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of the Paganini, the Orchestra was joined by Alexander Malofeev, winner of the 8th International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in 2014 and of the International Competition for Young Pianists in Moscow in 2016. Rachmaninov's kaleidoscopic treatment of the last of Paganini's 24 Caprices for Solo Violin was one of the only six pieces Rachmaninov composed after his arrival in America in 1918, premiering with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Baltimore in 1934. Incorporating the Dies irae plainchant theme, something of an obsession of Rachmaninov, the piece is endlessly inventive and a perfect showcase for any pianist who wants to demonstrate their virtuosity.

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"[Malofeev's] delicacy, the golden tone, the soft-edge, the balance and the elegance – became immediately apparent when one heard this Rachmaninoff [sic]"

Seen & Heard International

For an encore Alexander played enchanting Handel’s Minuet in G.

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During the stage change-over conductor Vasily Petrenko provided the audience with some entertaining and insightful context around the second piece, Elgar's Falstaff, an intricate symphonic study that brings to life one of Shakespeare's most memorable characters.

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There were wild trills in the woodwind (especially bassoons), some dazzling pizzicato in the strings, gorgeous harps (always such an Elgarian treat), and brass at fff that were explosive... A superb performance, of quite some stature, which uncovered many details of this gorgeous work.

Seen & Heard International

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The tragicomic knight from Henry IV Parts One and Two is portrayed in various scenes by Elgar, including drunken tavern revelries, battles, and dreams of past glory days, his irreverent and boastful nature notably embodied by a larger-than-life bassoon. Although it was not a success at its 1913 premiere at the Leeds Festival, Elgar would later say that he enjoyed writing the piece 'more than any other music I have ever composed and perhaps for that reason it may prove to be among my best efforts.'

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We'd like to thank our audience for supporting our 2023–2024 season, with performances from incomparable artists such as Skeku Kanneh-Mason, Louise Alder and Denis Kozhukhin. We hope you'll join us at Southbank Centre and the Royal Albert Hall in 2024–25 with Vasily for Lights in the Dark, presenting music written in times of turmoil, conflict and oppression.

Lights in the Dark

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