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First Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra Concert Held in Sochi

10 September 2019

The first concert of the unique Russian-British Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra has been held in the Sirius Park of arts and sciences in Sochi. The Orchestra was inspired by the friendship of two great composers of the 20th century, Dmitry Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten. The project is a part of the UK-Russia Year of Music and is supported by Rosneft Oil Company and BP.

The BSFO was founded and led by Artistic Director of the Kolobov Novaya Opera in Moscow, Jan Latham-Koenig. He is the first and only British conductor to lead a Russian theatre.

Applications for participation in the Orchestra came from many of the most talented orchestral musicians who are studying or have just started their careers in Russia and the UK. Auditions for graduates and students of leading conservatories and music colleges in Russia and Great Britain were held from March to May this year. They resulted in 86 young musicians from Russia and Great Britain entering the Orchestra, whose average age is 22-23 years.

BSFO consists of British and Russian musicians, split evenly. They represent the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory, the Saint Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, the Rostov Rachmaninoff State Conservatory, the Gnessin Academy of Music, and the Ippolitov-Ivanov Institute of Music. British musicians represent such conservatories as: Royal College of Music (London), Royal Academy of Music (London), Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Cardiff), Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester), Oxford University Faculty of Music, and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Glasgow).

During the first concert, the audience had the opportunity to appreciate the performing skills of young musicians, as well as the Orchestra’s unique musical programme. It includes Shostakovich’s Suite for Variety Orchestra and Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes” from the opera “Peter Grimes”. Shostakovich’s music for “Hamlet” intertwines with the dialogues from Kozintsev’s film performed by actors Edward Fox and Freddie Fox. These pieces featured violinist Jennifer Pike and pianist Pavel Kolesnikov--along the well-known British and Russian masterpieces, such as “The Lark Ascending” and “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” by Vaughan-Williams, the suite from “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokofiev, and “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” by Rachmaninoff. The performance scored a great success, the audience gave the performers a standing ovation.

The second concert of BSFO will be held in the Sirius Park on September 10; following that, the musicians will perform in the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory on September 12 and 14. The Russian part of the tour comes to an end with a concert in the Saint Petersburg Shostakovich State Philharmonia on September 15. Afterward, from September 17 to September 25, BSFO will be performing in the UK cities in the following succession: Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Basingstoke, and London.

“I hope that the Orchestra’s performances will become a new cultural tradition for Russia and the UK and will be an annual event. And I am sure that our Orchestra will act as a kind of ambassador of Russian and British cultures around the world,” Jan Latham-Koenig said after the first concert.

His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, Irina Shostakovich, Dmitri Shostakovich’s widow and director of the “Dmitri Shostakovich Foundation”, as well as the prominent Russian conductor, Yuri Temirkanov, will be honorary presidents of the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra.

Notes for Editors:

Benjamin Britten and Dmitry Shostakovich met for the first time at a concert of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall in 1960, during the tour of Mstislav Rostropovich to Great Britain, where he presented the Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. Friendship between Britten and Shostakovich was born and maintained at a distance thanks to the constant exchange of scores and recordings through mediation. The main mediators were Rostropovich and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya, who formed a friendly quartet of friends bound by music capable of overcoming all boundaries.

Rosneft Oil Company traditionally supports large-scale projects aimed at reviving spiritual and national values of the country, development of science, culture, education, and sports. The Company cooperates with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, the State Tretyakov Gallery, and the State Hermitage Museum. Rosneft provides support to the Mariinsky Theatre and the St. Petersburg Music House as well as annual performances of Sretensky Monastery chorus in presence regions, it finances the Saint Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra, organizes the tours of the St. Petersburg State Ballet Theatre of Boris Eifman, etc.

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September 10, 2019