Russia was a bit of a latecomer to the classical music scene: its composers initially imitated western fashions, just as its rulers looked towards Europe. But the 19th century saw the blossoming of a distinctly Russian style which turned the country into a classical music superpower.
In a concert directed by Greek conductor Michalis Economou, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra opens with a work by one of the first Russian classical composers to build on Russian musical traditions: Mikhail Glinka. The overture to his opera Ruslan and Lyudmila, based on an epic poem by Pushkin, remains enduringly famous.
The concert also features two works by Soviet-era composers. Prokofiev was a Russian exile when he wrote his Third Piano Concerto, which will be performed by the acclaimed Italian pianist Pietro De Maria, although he subsequently returned to his native country.
In contrast, Shostakovich – who was still a child when the Russian revolution took place – stayed put, and often faced restrictions, ostracism and threats from a regime which sought to impose ideology on music, although these eased after Stalin’s death in 1953. His Tenth Symphony was premiered later that same year, though it’s unclear when it was actually written. It is believed to be a musical depiction of the terror and capriciousness of the dictator’s rule.
This concert is supported by the Valletta 2018 Foundation.