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Interplay between Latvian Kindred Spirits: Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1

The young Latvian violinist Baiba Skride and her fellow-countryman Andris Nelsons performed with the City of Birmingham Orchestra at the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg. The high point of the concert was Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1. The daily newspaper DIE WELT commented on the event as follows:

Interplay between Latvian Kindred Spirits

“Riga, Jurmala, Latvia – the proximity to Europe had the effect of a magnet for many Russians.” With this sentence, the Latvian star violinist Gidon Kremer reminisced in his autobiography on the old East-West thinking before perestroika. Latvian violinist Baiba Skride and her fellow-countryman, today’s conductor Andris Nelsons, were still children when the Iron Curtain fell. Neither of them has meanwhile forgotten nor repressed the proximity to Russia, which is surely why their performance together at the Nordic Concerts at the Laeiszhalle on Monday evening with works by the great Russian composers Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovich was also the expression of a spiritual kinship.

“Nelsons brought along the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for this thrilling concert. He has been conducting the orchestra since last season; the ensemble developed a special approach to the Russian repertoire long before Nelsons’ era. Stravinsky’s ballet music ‘Firebird’ was brilliant and highly dramatic as was Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, a work by turns both depressive and downright grotesque.

“Despondency and longing, aggression and rebellion met within the smallest space in Skride’s playing, and Nelsons conducted the fragile Nocturne in a bent-forward posture, as if sneaking past a sleeping infant’s cradle. Tympani and xylophone acted magnificently in introducing the theme of the burlesque, which at first drowned out everything brutally, allowing no chance for the violin. Everything was well-balanced with this top British orchestra, even if the famous passacaglia theme was only introduced by the winds, especially four bold horns, the strings surprisingly silent.”


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