Sunday, 21 July 2019

Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra

Rostropovich, Oistrakh, Britten and Shostakovich during the festival of British music in Moscow. March 1963
Rostropovich, Oistrakh, Britten and Shostakovich during the
festival of British music in Moscow. March 1963
On Wednesday 17 July 2019 a new orchestra was launched, the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra. Inspired by the friendship of two composers, the Russian Dmitri Shostakovich and the British Benjamin Britten, the orchestra will bring together talented young musicians from Russia and from Britain, performing in both countries during September 2019. The orchestra has been created by the conductor Jan-Lathan Koenig, who is the artistic director of Novaya Opera in Moscow, the only Briton to lead a Russian cultural organisation.

The eighty six musicians from conservatoires in London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Moscow, St Petersburg and Rostov will come together for the first time in September 2019 for a week's residency in Sochi, and will then perform in Russia and in Moscow. The orchestra's repertoire will mix Russian and British music including Shostakovich's Jazz Suite and his score to Hamlet, alongside Britten's Four Sea Interludes and music by Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Elgar and RVW. Whilst the suite from Hamlet will be performed in some places, in London and Nottingham, Jan-Latham Koenig has created a new version which interweaves speeches from Shakespeare's play, performed by Edward Fox and Freddie Fox, with Shostakovich's music. For two concerts in Russia the orchestra will be joined by the choir of Novaya Opera to perform Shostakovich's Symphonic Poem 'Execution of Stepan Razin'.

Participation will be free to the young musicians involved, with support being provided by BP and Rosneft. The orchestra has been founded to mark the 2019 Year of Music, a bilateral collaboration between the UK and Russia, but it is hoped that the orchestra will form a legacy beyond 2019, to create a dynamic cultural collaboration centred on an orchestra of great excellence.

Over 300 people were auditioned for places in the orchestra, and the resulting orchestra has 50 women and 37 men, with 35 from the UK and 52 from Russia, with an age range of 18 to 28.

The Britten Shostakovich Festival Orchestra is on tour to Russia and to Britain from 9 to 25 September 2019, full details from the orchestra's website.

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