Orchestra With Strong Musical Heritage Launches Classical Season


Soloist Peter Donohoe will perform with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra

A world-renowned orchestra which traces its history back over 80 years is set to launch a new season of classical concerts at Norwich Theatre Royal.

The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra will perform some of the greatest works from its home country to herald a series of performances which will bring respected and acclaimed musicians to the city.

Their visit on October 22 is the first of four which will also include concerts from the European Union Chamber Orchestra, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the return of the Britten Sinfonia who will be conducted by Thomas Adès.

The theatre’s chief executive Stephen Crocker said: “Norwich has a deep-rooted association with classical music concerts that dates back to the founding of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in the eighteenth century and continues to this day with a thriving and enviable programme across the city’s churches and venues.

“As the largest stage in the city, the Theatre Royal has an important part to play in further developing this part of Norwich’s vibrant music scene by ensuring that some of the world’s leading symphony orchestras and classical performers are part of this city-wide programme.”

The opening concert will feature an orchestra which traces its history back to 1931. For the first twenty years of their life, the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra were linked to Leningrad Radio broadcasting live initially as a concert orchestra and then becoming a symphony orchestra.

During the Second World War, it was the only orchestra which carried on performing winning plaudits for the Leningrad premiere of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony in August 1942 and performing more than 300 times despite the blockade of the city.

It received Philharmonic status in 1953 and then in the late Sixties, began a major growth of its repertoire. By the Seventies, it was performing the Leningrad premiere of works by a wide variety of composers including Handel, Mahler, Strauss, and Tippett, as well as recording all the symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert, plus works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Ravel and East Anglia’s own Britten.

The European Union Chamber Orchestra

It now regularly takes part in prestigious international festivals and tours across Europe, Asia and America delighting audiences and critics alike and with a very mixed repertoire which includes works by Beethoven and Mozart, classical Swedish music, and the scores for both Winnie The Pooh and The Lion King.

For their Norwich concert, they will be performing Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony which marked a change in the composer’s style and approach. It mixes classical techniques with a more contemporary feel and also marked a departure for Prokofiev as it was composed away from the piano.

Also in the programme will be Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 4 which was first written by the Russian composer in 1926. He revised it a number of times before he was finally 100 per cent happy with it by 1941. In common with the Prokofiev piece, it has a modern feel and is slightly different from some of his other work. Joining the orchestra as soloist will be internationally-renowned pianist Peter Donohoe.

Completing the October concert will be Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade which boasts some wonderfully evocative compositions as it tells stories of the Persian Princess and is a piece which can be enjoyed by anyone.

Looking further ahead, the European Union Chamber Orchestra will perform a programme of work by Bach, Mozart and Handel on March 24 next year, which will be followed by an evening featuring Beethoven’s dazzling Piano Concerto no 5 and majestic symphonies by Schubert and Dvorak all performed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra on April 15.

The Czech National Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven is then back in the spotlight with his fourth and fifth symphonies performed by the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Thomas Adés on Sunday 27 May. Presented as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, the concert will also feature Gerald Barry’s Piano Concerto written especially for, and performed by, Nicholas Hodges.

Stephen Crocker added: “We hope that our new classical music season will be a great addition to the music scene and will delight both stalwart and new concert-goers alike.  It is fantastic to bring such an array of international performers to the region and showcase some absolute gems from the orchestral repertoire.  I am very much looking forward to hearing our auditorium filled with this glorious music and to seeing classical music grow as a key part of our annual programme.”

The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra perform here on 22 October. Buy tickets now at Norwich Theatre Royal.