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Britten and Shostakovich: a musical friendship

19 September, 2019 — By Michael White

Benjamin Britten (left). Photo: London Records 1968; Dmitri Shostakovich. Photo: Deutsche Fotothek

THERE wasn’t too much cultural traffic between Britain and Russia at the height of the Cold War. But despite the barriers, a musical friendship was forged between Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich who admired each other’s work; and this friendship gets com­memorated in a brand new orchestra making its London debut next Wednesday (September 25) at Cadogan Hall.

Called the Britten-Shostakovich Festival Orchestra, it’s an initiative that brings together young players from the two sides of what used to the Iron Curtain and is overseen by Jan Latham-Koenig, a British conductor who has worked in Russia and has good connections with the odd oligarch. Useful for funding.

The programme for this first concert includes the Sea Interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes, with readings from the George Crabbe poem that inspired the opera, deliv­ered by actor Edward Fox.

• September 25, 7.30pm, £18+, Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, SW1X 9DQ, 020 7730 4500,

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