Rachmaninov Vespers

Evening Post review - 8th November 2010

Bold performance captured atmosphere of Russia

Conductor David Ogden divided Rachmaninov's beautiful interpretation of The All Night Vigil as it would be liturgically, Vespers, Matins, and First Hour.

By doing so he left room between sections for cellist Richard May and pianist Olena Shvetsova to play movements from cello sonatas by Shostakovich and Rachmaninov.

Having widened the format David Ogden and Richard May decided that a work was needed to bring all the strands together. They chose a brand new composition – Epistle by Ukrainian composer Yuri Yukechev – which received its first performance in this country during this concert. In so doing, the conductor took a risk, not only on a new piece of music, but also on this format being a well-balanced whole.

You could not question the quality of the playing by May and Shvetsova of this or the two later Rachmaninov pieces. Nor was there any doubting the singers' and conductor's ability to be as completely in command of the new work as they were of the Vespers. With the aid of some telling solo contributions from Alice Harper, Oliver Condy, and Martin Le Poidevin, the spirit of Yukechev's work was captured admirably. Whether it tied up all the themes within the concert as well as it was meant to do is a more arguable point.

Something else that was captured wonderfully well were the essentially Russian sounds in Rachmaninov's music. Under David Ogden's firm leadership you could believe you were in a Russian Orthodox Church. With soloists Judith Ogden, David Ball and David Brown, leading the way and some pure Russian tones from those singing in the low registers, we were treated to a very atmospheric performance of Rachmaninov's music to celebrate one of the main feast days in the Church calendar.

GERRY PARKER