Holst's Planets

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Overview

Russia comes to London with a concerto by composer Nikolai Medtner, the Russian virtuoso who settled there in the 1930s. Medtner’s music has long been overshadowed by that of his friend Rachmaninoff, but his first concerto revels in the sheer beauty of the piano, spinning fabulous melodies that seem to flow from the soul of the instrument.

Alexei Volodin makes a seductive case for this opulent work. He’s a pianist in the muscular Russian tradition with the soul of a poet, displaying ‘magisterial mental and physical control that serve musical imagination and insight’.

The Planets is a must-hear event under conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy’s baton. The astrological portraits of the celestial bodies are triumphs of dazzling orchestral magic and unforgettable musical imagery – the foreboding march of Mars, the fizzing energy of Mercury, the ethereal voices of Neptune. And the big, uplifting tune for Jupiter was such a hit that it was adapted as the song ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’.

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