In the framework of the cross-year of music between Russia and Great Britain, London hosted the presentation of the first in the history the Russian-British Festival Orchestra Britten-Shostakovich, the creation of which was inspired by the friendship of the two great composers of the 20th century.
The Orchestra included 86 young musicians aged 18 – 28, representing the leading conservatories in Russia and Great Britain. Among them – Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory, Rimsky-Korsakoff St. Petersburg State Conservatory, Royal College of Music (London), Royal Academy of Music (London), Royal Conservatory of Birmingham, Guildhall School of Music and Theater, Royal Wales College of Music and Theater (Cardiff).
The first performance of the new symphonic ensemble will take place in September 2019. The program includes a suite for a pop orchestra and a pop poem “Execution of Stepan Razin” by Shostakovich, as well as “Four Sea Interludes” from the opera “Peter Grimes” by Britten. The musicians will also perform “The Rising Lark” and “Fantasy on the Tallis Theme” by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, the Suite “Romeo and Juliet” by Sergei Prokofiev and “Rhapsody on the Paganini Theme” by Sergei Rachmaninov.
The musicians will travel to many cities in Russia and the UK, including Sochi, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Basingstoke and London.
Benjamin Britten and Dmitry Shostakovich met in 1960 at a concert of the Leningrad Philharmonic in the Royal Festival Hall. They admired each other’s music. For example, “Peter Grimes” by the British composer was inspired by the opera of his Russian colleague “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk”, which he first heard in 1935.
Despite diplomatic tensions between the two countries during the Cold War, Britten and Shostakovich constantly exchanged music scores and notes through their fellow intermediaries. Britten dedicated his opera “The Prodigal Son” to Shostakovich, and Dmitry Dmitrievich dedicated “Symphony No. 14” to his friend the British composer. The friendship of these outstanding musicians lasted for many years.