Russian National Orchestra


Edinburgh International Festival

Usher Hall

August  21st



This was the second of two concerts given by this orchestra in the Usher hall this weekend, under their conductor Kirill Karabits. They began with the Elegy for String Orchestra by Valentin Silvestrov. This was at times sweetly sad as performed here, with some captivating moments.

Much anticipated was the performance of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto by Denis Matsuev,  who was standing in for the injured Michel Pletnev. He had been planning to play Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto. In no way could Matsuev’s playing be considered a disappointment. It was thrilling, and at times in the first movement his fingers were over the keys almost like to wings of a hummingbird, as they drew out the nourishment of aural beauty. He proved very lyrical where that was needed, and was splendidly tempestuous during the final movement. He received rapturous applause, and the cheers led him to give two encores, one a gentle music box, perhaps to show he could do that, and the other a fiery jam session.

The second half was taken up with Scriabin’s Second Symphony. This is a rarely heard work, but one of much richness and depth. It shows a strong affinity with the Russian musical tradition, but anyone familiar with the Cesar Franck Symphony will have felt in the latter part of the symphony that Scriabin was influenced by that composer.

This was a varied and very inspiring evening. I imagine I am one of many who will now want to look more deeply at the work of Scriabin, whilst the  wonderful playing of  Denis Matsuev will remain in my mind for a considerable time.


Tony Challis