The Russian Virtuosi of Europe Impress in London

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Cuellar, Tchaikovsky, Grebenshikov. Arturo Cuellar (piano), Boris Grebenshikov (singer), The Russian Virtuosi of Europe, Yuri Zhislin (director) Cadogan Hall, London, 9.1.2015 (LB)

Arturo Cuellar– Latin Fantasy on Russian Themes
Pyotr Tchaikovsky – Souvenir de Florence Op. 70 arranged for String Orchestra
Boris Grebenshikov– Faune Suite for Voice and Chamber Orchestra arranged by Simon Bass

Enchanted by you
Came for water
Word of the dove
Rain coloured sky
To my star
For those in love


The Russian Virtuosi of Europe is, under the leadership of its charismatic director Yuri Zhislin, quite a force to be reckoned with. It brings together a stellar array of musicians, all passionately committed to upholding the traditions of the Russian School, albeit influenced by London, where many of them live and pursue careers.

Their concert in London this evening began with the world premiere performance of the Latin Fantasy on Russian Themes by the Colombian composer Arturo Cuellar (b 1960), who was himself at the piano for the performance, scampering up and down the keyboard to great effect.

 The ensemble made light work of the infectious rhythms and colourful harmonies, and their slick performance had a curiously energising effect upon the audience, who responded with enthusiasm to a fizzing suite that ended abruptly but effectively.

 In a city not particularly well served acoustically, Cadogan Hall presents a particularly challenging prospect for chamber orchestras and ensembles, and once the piano had been removed from the texture, it took the string ensemble a moment or two to generate real bite to their attack, and weight to their sound, despite employing the use of three cellos and a double bass in the arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence for string orchestra.

 They were quickly into their stride however and delivered a purposeful first movement of great intensity. Yuri Zhislin’s solos in the searingly beautiful adagio second movement were ravishing, and the cello solos of Alexei Sarkissov had the ‘tingle factor’. The third movement allegro moderato was beautifully poised with the ensemble’s dynamic range beginning to explore colours at the quieter end of the spectrum, something which had until this point not found effective expression. The final allegro vivace set off with great gusto and maintained a relentless air of dynamism, dancing its way jauntily through every challenge, and concluding with great aplomb.

 The second half of the concert was devoted to the music of Boris Grebenshikov, or BG as he is affectionately known. Grebenshikov (b. 1953) is something of a cult figure in Russia and it was during the 1980’s that he first began to assimilate and experiment with influences including rock and reggae.  We were treated to two of his compositions, the Faune Suite for voice and chamber orchestra and a set of six songs.

 The strings of The Russian Virtuosi of Europe were now complemented by a quintet of woodwinds, a bass guitar, harp, drums and the seductive voice and resolute guitar of the maestro himself.

 The music began evocatively, with a plaintive oboe solo accompanied by the harp, and continued to develop with the gradual introduction of the rest of the ensemble, until the first vocal entry of the Russian rock legend that everyone had come to hear.

 Both the Faune Suite and songs were delivered with passion and elegance, and whilst the music is not necessarily particularly revolutionary, it provoked some very vocal declarations of love and other outbursts of enthusiasm from the lively audience, and it is clear that Boris Grebenshikov touches something very deep within the psyche of his followers.

 Leon Bosch