Usher Hall announces Sunday Classics season for 2018–19
- Alex Johnston
- 30 May 2018
International orchestras and soloists line up to play at the historic venue
The Usher Hall's upcoming Sunday Classics season has been announced, in which world-class orchestras and soloists perform in Edinburgh's iconic concert hall. This year's season includes orchestras from Russia, Japan and India, and soloists from Canada, Germany and Kazakhstan, climaxing with a spectacular multi-media presentation of Gustav Holst's The Planets.
The Russian State Symphony Orchestra kicks the season off on 14 Oct, with Valentin Uryupin conducting a programme of Russian favourites including Shostakovich's uncharacteristically light-hearted Piano Concerto No. 2, with the great Barry Douglas as soloist. On 28 Oct, the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra presents works by Bernstein, Sibelius's sublime Symphony No. 5, and Beethoven's 'Emperor' Concerto, featuring Canadian virtuoso Angela Hewitt.
November sees a special concert commemorating the end of the First World War: 11 Nov is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, and appropriately enough, the concert features a programme of music based around Michael Morpurgo's WWI classic War Horse, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and with narration from the author himself.
There are more Russian classics from the St Petersburg Philharmonic, Russia's oldest orchestra, which on 27 Jan has as guest soloist Freddy Kempf for Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, conducted by Yuri Temirkanov. Also on the bill is Mahler's Symphony No. 4, one of the composer's more modestly-scaled symphonies. On 24 Feb, the Symphony Orchestra of India plays works by Weber, Rimsky-Korsakov and Bruch, whose Violin Concerto features the Kazakh master Marat Bisengaliev. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on 7 Apr plays a string-heavy programme, with Vaughan Williams's incomparably eerie Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Elgar's Enigma Variations and Pinchas Zuckerman as soloist in Beethoven's epic Violin Concerto.
The Japan Philharmonic on 14 April presents an intriguing bill of an as-yet unconfirmed work by Einojuhani Rautavaaral; Takemitsu's early Requiem for String Orchestra, which was admired by Stravinsky; Sibelius' second symphony, and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, with soloist John Lill. And there's a third helping of Russian music with the Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk playing works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky (yes, it's Ravel's much-loved arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition) and Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which film fans will recognise as the piece of music that inspires Groundhog Day's Phil Connors to take up the piano. The soloist is Valentian Lisitsa, returning after her 2017 triumph.
Finally, the closing Sunday Classic goes for full sci-fi, with the opening section of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra, Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube, both of which were prominently featured in Kubrick's 2001; Stokowski's arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which was the spectacular opener to Disney's Fantasia; John Williams' Star Wars main theme, and a special film created by NASA and director Duncan Copp to accompany Holst's Planets suite. The movie features the latest high-definition images of our exploration of the solar system.
Sunday Classics runs from 14 Oct 2018 until 16 Jun 2019. Tickets for the 2018–19 season are on sale now.