Chloe Hanslip, soloist – photo supplied by Theatre Royal


Unlike just about every moderate sized German town Norwich has never quite managed to corral its citizenry into the collective provision of a proper concert hall.  Into this regrettable void one or two venues do their best to remind us what we are missing, and the Theatre Royal folk are to be commended for at least making the effort to bring us the joys of a performance from a large orchestra.

The Theatre Royal auditorium does present a few challenges with sight lines, limited space for performers and an acoustic environment that is distinctive, but none of these minor quibbles troubled the enthusiastic Sunday evening audience for The Russian State Symphony Orchestra who gave us a delightful sample of the works of three great Russian composers, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

One of the unexpected joys of the stage being so crammed with talent was a little bit of extra and I suspect unorchestrated drama.  The conductor Valentin Uryupin appears to be about nine feet tall and has a dramatic style using every muscle in his very long arms to direct the nuances of the fifty plus musicians on stage.  At one point his exuberance sent the music stand of the first violin Sergey Girshenko flying, and later the principal cellist Paul Suss suffered the same calamity.  None of this appeared to affect the competence of the performers in giving a fine rendition of the three composer’s works.

The first section was a suite of pieces from Swan Lake which allowed us to see and hear just how complex and accomplished the work of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is.  The eight sections chosen are amongst the most familiar and popular of all ballet compositions and justify their place in any concert.

The Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 1 in D major introduced British violinist Chloe Hanslip as the soloist in a moving performance taking us to the interval.  After the break we were treated to the full majesty of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Symphony No 5 in D minor which allowed the Russian orchestra to show just how powerful and emotional this composer’s work is.  This symphony received a half hour ovation upon its first performance in 1937 in Leningrad, and was greeted with an only slightly subdued Norfolk equivalent this week.

There is no substitute for the experience of hearing great music performed by a large and exceptionally talented orchestra and this concert was clearly very well received by audience members.   The Theatre Royal is staging further classical concerts on 25th November and 2nd December – check out their website for more details:

© Julian Swainson 2018