wed 19/05/2021

Russia

A Splinter of Ice, Original Theatre Company online review - Graham Greene and Kim Philby are friends reunited

There’s such a genial feel to the pairing of Oliver Ford Davies and Stephen Boxer in Ben Brown’s new play that there are moments when we almost forget the weighty historical circumstances that lay behind the long-awaited encounter between two old...

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Blu-ray: Viy

Released in 1967, Viy (Вий) was the first horror film to be produced in the USSR. Based on a novella by Gogol that draws from a multitude of folkloric tropes, Viy is more disquieting than chilling, though several sequences still unnerve. Konstantin...

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Myaskovsky Dialogues, Yekaterinburg online review - revival and revelation

The reputation of Nikolai Myaskovsky has long been cast into shadow by the more exportable extroversion of his contemporaries Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Even at their darkest moments, neither of them does Russian gloom quite like Myaskovsky, but...

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Pushkin House Music Festival online review - Russian around Bloomsbury

Sergey Prokofiev died on 5 March 1953, on the same day as Stalin. Perhaps that uncomfortable coincidence makes March the perfect time for a festival of Russian music. Pushkin House, the Russian cultural centre based in a Georgian villa in Bloomsbury...

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Blu-ray: The Ascent

There’s a striking interview among the extras for this Criterion edition of Russian director Larisa Shepitko’s fourth and final feature. The director was talking in 1978 to Bavarian Television at the Berlin Film Festival, where The Ascent had won...

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Coote, Blackshaw, Fiennes, Wigmore Hall online review – lonely hearts club band

Why, in Lieder singing above all, should an outpouring of deep feeling so frighten critics? Alice Coote’s unabashed emotionalism as a recitalist can sometimes bring out the worst in the stiff-upper-lip brigade, as reactions to her high-impact...

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Dear Comrades! review - Andrei Konchalovsky exposes the Soviet past

Veteran Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky has gone back to his beginnings for his latest film. The real-life events on which Dear Comrades! is based took place in June 1962, when social unrest over rising prices saw strikes break out in...

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George Saunders: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain review – Russian lessons in literature and life

Before he published fiction, George Saunders trained as an engineer and wrote technical reports. The Booker-winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo, and four volumes of short stories, still has a telling fondness for precisely-scaled kits, blueprints...

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The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Bristol Old Vic/Kneehigh/Wise Children online review – ravishing vision of Chagall's early life

One of Marc Chagall’s last commissions was for a stained-glass window in Chichester Cathedral, which channelled his characteristically exuberant spirituality into a response to the verse from Psalm 150, “Let everything that has breath praise the...

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Christine Rice, Julius Drake, Wigmore Hall review - songs of love and death

It began as a Christmas present in the bleakest of winters. In December 1939, as war engulfed Europe, Bertolt Brecht sent a poem to the exiled Kurt Weill in New York. Weill set it as a bittersweet gift for his wife Lotte Lenya. “Nannas Lied” – the...

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The Queen's Gambit, Netflix review - chess prodigy's story makes brilliant television

It’s surprising, perhaps, that the dramatic potential of chess hasn’t been more widely exploited. There was a nail-biting tournament in From Russia with Love, while the knight’s chequerboard struggle with Death was the centrepiece of Ingmar Bergman’...

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Blu-ray: Beanpole

Kantemir Balagov’s second feature announces the arrival of a major new talent in arthouse cinema. Made by the Russian director when he was just 27, and premiered at Cannes last year, where it won in the “Un Certain Regard” strand, Beanpole...

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