After several concerts featuring French and Russian composers, the notable Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi had chosen a Russian only programme, but 2 works of totally opposite atmospheres. He was conducting the ONF at Radio France.
They performed Tchaikovsky’s Suite No.4, called “Mozartiana”, a tribute to the divine Mozart, each of its 4 movements being based on a work by the Austrian genius. I particularly enjoyed the 1st 3 movements, sequentially : Gigue. Allegro, Menuet. Moderato, and Preghiera. Andante non tanto.
In total contrast to this almost heavenly atmosphere, the performers had chosen Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony, named “Leningrad“. The piece was written in 1941, when the siege of the city by the Nazis began – a siege that will cause the death of more than 1 million Soviet civilians (about 1 inhabitant out of 3). The Symphony will have instant succès in the USSR, but also in the UK and USA, thanks to the microfilm of the score that was sent from the Soviet Union. From the opening Allegretto, Neeme Järvi got the very best of the ONF, pushing it to its limits, even in the slow sections. There was not a minute to take your breath during the Moderato (poco allegretto), the Adagio that follows, dark and sorrowful, and the closing Allegro non troppo. Hats off!