Had you been at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday evening you may have noticed the new cohort of Year 12 Culture Clubbers seated so close behind the London Philharmonic Orchestra as to be able to read the dots on the sheet music. The concert, featuring Modest Mussorgsky’s musical odyssey Pictures at an Exhibition, was an outstanding first outing of the year for Culture Club, and for many, their first experience of a classical music concert.

After spending our free time exploring the culinary offerings of the Southbank, we headed into the venue. Under the direction of principal guest conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the orchestra opened with Boris Blacher’s Orchestral Variations on a Theme by Paganini, a beautifully atmospheric set of variations on the original theme from 19th-century virtuoso Niccolo Paganini.

The plethora of orchestral colours captured by this piece made for a captivating start; however, we had a treat in store next in the form of Bruch’s timeless Violin Concerto No.1, with Australian violinist Ray Chen in the rousing finale displaying his incredible talent with gusto, judging by the few intact hairs left on the bow by the end. Chen’s encore of a slightly embellished solo version of Waltzing Matilda went down particularly well with the audience before the interval.

The second half of the concert had a distinctly Russian theme to it, beginning with three of Anatoly Liadov’s short tone poems, which are based on Russian folklore. Despite Liadov never composing such large-scale pieces as his talent would have allowed, we found that these three miniatures had a special magic woven into their Russian spirit.

It was then the turn of Mussorgsky’s memorial to his friend Victor Hartmann, Pictures at an Exhibition, which consists of musical impressions of ten of Hartmann’s paintings and five movements that represent Mussorgsky’s feelings as he walked around the gallery where these paintings were on display. This thirty-minute masterpiece made for a moving finish to the concert as it included some interesting choices of instruments such as the saxophone, tubular bells and two harps to add to the range of tones the orchestra could achieve.

After such a dazzling concert the verdict from the students was overwhelmingly positive. Special thanks must go to Miss Ashton for organising the trip and we look forward to the upcoming seasonal visit to see Swan Lake.