Friday, 12 August 2022

A little bit of Russian music in the night

THE Hexagon’s resident orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, returns to Reading for their second concert of the season tomorrow (Saturday), under

THE Hexagon’s resident orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, returns to Reading for their second concert of the season tomorrow (Saturday), under the baton of Kirill Karabits.

The Ukrainian maestro leads a programme of Russian classical masterworks.

Borodin was respected as a chemist, but it is as a composer of colourful orchestration and irresistible melodies that he is remembered, and his Overture to the opera Prince Igor opens the concert.

Prokofiev began sketching his Piano Concerto No 3 In C Major in 1917, completing it in Brittany in 1921. It is performed at the Hexagon by Russian pianist, Alexei Volodin.

Born in 1977 in Leningrad, Alexei studied under Irina Chaklina and Tatiana Zelikman at the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music and later with Eliso Virsaladze at the Moscow Conservatoire. In 2001 he continued his studies at the International Piano Academy Lake Como. He gained international recognition following his victory at the International Géza Anda Competition in Zurich in 2002.

Completing the programme is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 1 “Winter Daydreams” in which the composer conjures up blustery and atmospheric scenes with dramatic flair.

lTickets for the concert at the Hexagon on Saturday, March 23 start at £16. Box office 0118 960 6060 or visit

“THERE was a time when I was being spoken of and written about in the same sentences as the likes of Tom Robinson, John Otway and Elvis Costello,” says Alan Clayson.

The fact that he is not a household name, though, may be down to the fact that this veteran musician seems to have notched up more acclaim among the critics than among the public.

His band, Clayson And The Argonauts, plays a comeback gig in Reading’s Rising Sun Arts Centre in April, and anyone who was young and into rock music back in the Seventies may want to make a simultaneous trip to Reading and a trip down memory lane.

“We are to Reading what The Troggs are to Andover, and The Beatles to Liverpool,” says this amiable chap, who can also, at times, come across as incredibly modest.

Clayson, who lives in Caversham, began his musical career while studying history at Reading University, and the Argonauts played in college venues and pubs in the area. It sounds like an interesting time. There was one night, he recalls, after a gig at The Target, near Reading’s open market, when he was hustled out of the venue by a man with a revolver — though there had been some argie-bargie beforehand, he admits.

The band had their big break when they supported The Clash at the Nag’s Head in High Wycombe in 1976, and then went on to play such salubrious joints as 100 Club and even a headline gig at The Marquee Club in London. They then toured the UK and Europe for three years and released a number of records. Still, Clayson, after so many years in the business, finds it hard to describe their music.

“I write all my own original material,” he says, “but it kind of defies description. I suppose you’d call it prog rock.”

Clayson has enjoyed a secondary career as a writer, but still sings and writes — he recently recorded a solo album On Dover Soul in France, with Wreckless Eric as the producer. The six-piece band will play a selection of their back catalogue at the gig, plus a few surprises, including a world première or two.

“The trouble with world premières,” he says with witty self-deprecation, “is that they’re often a final performance.”

There will also be a tribute to his late friend, Reg Presley of The Troggs. Visit

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