Alexander Dmitriev. Photo by Maria Slepkova. Courtesy@Cadogan Hall

In October, Cadogan Hall hosted the St Petersburg Symphony orchestra under the leadership of Chief Conductor Alexander Dmitriev. A true maestro, Dmitriev has been working with his orchestra for more than 40 years. The programme was full of Russian soul. He opened the concert with the famous and beloved Romeo and Juliet Ouverture. Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece is a flyby of Shakespeare’s famous drama. It traverses the tension of the clashing Montague and Capulet houses and the heart-breaking beauty of the protagonists’ love. The musical interpretation of the story is pure magic. The Russian orchestra was soon joined by English pianist Peter Donohoe for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor. Less famous than the second and third concertos, it was a pleasure to watch Donohoe perform this Russian piece with power and melancholia, a real technical challenge for a pianist. The concerto depicts a portrait of a composer between two periods. Still full of romanticism, the concerto introduces new modern sounds reflecting Rachmaninov’s musical curiosity and evolving style. The St Petersburg orchestra continued with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Pathétique. This dramatic symphony was composed by Tchaikovsky just before his death. The composer wrote that he poured all his emotions into the work, from joy to suffering, and often cried writing it. Dimitriev’s love for the piece was clear, and he conducted his musicians naturally, finding the emotions conveyed by the composer within his orchestra. The evening was completed with two encores. Bach’s Suite No. 3 and Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G minor, a bright ending which left the public of the Cadogan Hall smiling and cheerful.

 

Our new contributor, the professional musicologist and editor of the DiscMuseum musical platform, Anna Lumbroso, had a short but enlightening conversation with the maestro Alexander Dmitriev, the artistic director and Chief Conductor of the Academic Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg: 

 

A.L. Who has been the greatest influence on your musical career?

AD : It’s difficult to mention all of them, but from a pedagogical point of view :I graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory as a choral conductor. Thanks to E.Kudryavtseva, I studied conducting with N.Rabinovich and, of course,  Evgeny Alexandrovich Mravinsky, the legendary Russian conductor. Which musical work inspired you to dedicate your life to music?

Alexander Dmitriev, Photo by Daniil Ryabovsky. Courtesy@Cadogan Hall

Daphnis and Chloe, a choreographic symphony composed by Maurice Ravel. It’s a brilliant composition, the orchestration is just perfect. Ravel has pushed the boundaries with the orchestra, explored all the capabilities of the instruments, which  he managed to display in this work.

 

Do you play an instrument?

I started playing the violin at the age of 6 and then I went to the piano during my studies, it was compulsory. So, I have played both instruments all my life.

 

If you could give one piece of advice to a classical music listener, what would it be?

When I ask people why they do not go to classical music concerts, I often hear this answer: “I do not understand classical music.” I do not think it’s necessary to understand music. Come to the concert, listen to the music, and if it touches your soul or your heart, then you will understand. No need for special musicological or professional musical education.

 

What is it like working with so many different orchestras?

It’s a difficult question. When you conduct an orchestra only once, this is the most difficult tasks. You have to give them a space to breathe, you have to inspire the orchestra. An orchestra is like a student, they have great potential, you just need to fire them up, kindle them with enthusiasm.