Herts Phil make symphony soar

Joo Yeong Sir

Joo Yeong Sir - Credit: Archant

Regarded by many as one of the most important symphonies of the 20th century, Dmitri Shostakovich’s 10th is as impressive as it is huge

For this dark work lasts for just under an hour and makes huge demands of those performing it – particularly the first and second violins.

First performed shortly after the death of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1953, the symphony in some ways represents a freedom from the controls he had experienced in his difficult relationship with the regimen.

Saturday’s performance at St Saviour’s Church in St Albans by the Hertfordshire Philharmonia under Lev Parikian gave a relatively rare chance to hear the brooding, sometimes angry, work alongside Shostakovich’s delightful, warm and happy Festival Overture which he reportedly dashed off in just three days before its first performance in 1954

The overture opens with an excellent fanfare which was expertly performed by the orchestra’s brass sections before moving on to luscious sections for woodwind and brass and exciting string passages, all of which were excellently performed.

The symphony opens in sombre mood from the lower strings but the mood is lifted just a little with delightful motifs exquisitely played by the orchestra’s flutes and clarinets

And like others of his works, there is a demand for a strong percussion section as well as strong playing from the brass sections all of which excelled.

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In particular the percussion came to the fore in the angry and extremely brief second movement

The work is not one to be tackled by the faint hearted and Lev Parikian’s interpretation was solid and thorough with excellent direction for the orchestra to guide it through the complexity of the work and achieve a very satisfactory performance.

The treat in the middle of the Shostakovich sandwich was Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto with young Korean-born violinist Joo Yeong Sir as soloist.

The former Purcell School student’s performance demonstrated exactly why she is earmarked by many as a rising star. Seductive and packed with rich tonality, it was a totally committed and delightful performance.

Both soloist and orchestra worked well together in the work which was originally thought to be unplayable, a theory which Joo Seong Sir eminently and delightfully demonstrated to be untrue.