Review: Russian State Symphony Orchestra **

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Leeds Town Hall

There was a time when we awaited with anticipation visits from Soviet Union orchestras, the brilliant and unique sound they brought to Russian music being different to anything we could experience elsewhere.

Since the political changes only a handful now remain, and the Russian State Symphony, under their conductor, Valery Poliansky, is certainly not one of them.

They looked and sounded a tired band as they dutifully played through the five movements of Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite, the vivacious final gallop needing an injection of pace to raise the temperature.

Unaffected violin, horn and clarinet solos characterised Poliansky’s account of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, the work’s four stories expressed in broad musical brush strokes where colours remained muted.

It was left to the heavy brass and percussion to generate excitement. I would have been very disappointed had this performance come from our excellent Orchestra of Opera North. This inclination of avoiding overt displays of virtuosity had already held sway through an account of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto that had unfolded spaciously in the hands of the soloist, Tatiana Polianskaya.

Poliansky pulled out of his musical hat three enjoyable encores, sending us home happy.