Symphony puts focus on Russian composers



The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming. And the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will be playing them this weekend.

As part of its Masterworks Series, the HSO is presenting “Russian Intensity” this weekend at The Bushnell. These concerts will feature HSO Concertmaster Leonid Sigal on violin and guest conductor Donato Cabrera.

The program of Russian composers includes Borodin’s Prince Igor Overture, Glazunov’s Concerto for Violin in A minor, Op. 82, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, TH 27..

Sigal, a recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestra leader who was born in Moscow, Russia, spoke about the evening via email.

Observer: We often speak of the Russian school of composers, although it’s impossible for any one nationality to have a single trait, especially creatively, talk to me about what musical qualities and approaches listeners can often expect from a Russian composer.

Sigal: Russian music, as are many areas of Russian arts and society – in essence represents a unique mixture of joy and sorrow, an epic blend, by its nature designed to intensify and deepen the listener’s experience. It reflects the quintessential Russian spirit and temperament. One of my favorite quotes from the great Dostoyevsky would express it best: “There is an indispensable measure of suffering even in the happiness of the Russian soul, for without it, its happiness is incomplete.”

O: Of the composers featured this night, Tchaikovsky is probably the best known to a casual classical music fan. What was it about his work that has helped him endure and become so closely identified as one of the stars of Russian composers?

S: Tchaikovsky’s music encapsulates everything that relates and connects in a most intimate and reachable way. It is as epic as it is personal, it could be impulsive, even bipolar, but also logical and clearly defined. It has a far-reaching sense of great distances and time, it is narrative, generous, intense, rabble-rousing or simple and sincere. In other words – it has everything that could relate and to almost anyone. This universal power and appeal certainly explains his time defying popularity and superiority among many Russian composers.

O: Which pieces will you be performing on? As a violinist, what is the challenge of these (this) composition—and what do you find a joy about these compositions as a violinist?

S: On this program I have an honor and am delighted to be a featured soloist in Alexander Glazunov’ Violin Concerto. An absolute gem and a staple in the romantic violin and orchestral repertoire, the work is filled with lush gorgeous melodies and dazzling virtuosic brilliance. It is imaginative, beautifully and sensibly orchestrated, and quite ingeniously structured as a relatively and unconventionally short, one movement piece, but certainly not lacking incredible technical challenges for the soloist, as well as orchestra.

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra presents “Russian Intensity” at the Belding Theater at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.  A free pre-concert talk led by Donato Cabrera and Leonid Sigal will take place one hour prior to each performance.

Tickets start at $33 and $10 for students with ID. For tickets, call (860)987-5900 or visit

Leonid Sigal

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