I had the pleasure of attending a short concert at the Rossotrudnichestvo Centre in Kensington last night. I thought I knew Kensington pretty well but I had no idea that this venue or centre even existed tucked away as it is just off the main high street. The concert was in aid of the Russian Virtuosi of Europe which is a small string chamber orchestra established in 2004 formed by violinist Yuri Zhislin. All members of the orchestra are Russian but are now based in the UK and Europe.
The concert was introduced by Russian pianist Olga Balakleets, Artistic Director of Ensemble Productions, who organized this performance. The concert consisted of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Bartok. I was immediately struck by the beautiful rich sound the orchestra produced. Many Russian players have intense training as children, far more than here in the West, and this is not only apparent from the pianists but string players too. In particular Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile and Grieg’s Holberg Suite (the highlight of the concert in my opinion) were meticulously phrased and shaped whilst employing a wide and varied tonal palate. Yuri performed Tchaikovsky’s Melody for violin and string orchestra (which he had arranged himself) and the concert concluded with a selection of Bartok’s Romanian Dances which were full of rhythmic vitality and spirit.
In a short speech, Yuri explained how the orchestra requires funding for future tours and recordings; it was a stark reminder of the perpetual difficulties that surround establishing ensembles of any kind. Sadly all orchestras seem to face funding issues and crisis periodically. However, by attending and supporting concerts hopefully audiences can help these wonderful ensembles achieve their potential.
The Russian Virtuosi of Europe’s forthcoming engagements include performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg in November followed by Cadogan Hall in London on 23rd November and King’s Place (also in London) on May 12th 2013. If you enjoy listening to fine string playing then you won’t want to miss these concerts.
Here’s a taster to whet your appetite.