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S & H International Concert Review

KIROV AT CARNEGIE HALL: Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet (complete) Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater, Valery Gergiev, Music Director and Conductor, Carnegie Hall, New York City, October 5, 2003 (BH)

Although the all-Shostakovich program two nights earlier pretty much had everyoneís heads spinning, if anything this vast afternoon showed off the capabilities of the orchestra perhaps the best of all three performances. Certainly it showed their stamina. At three hours with intermission, itís no wonder the work is often presented in truncated form, which is also too bad, since it is also brimming with some of the composerís most imaginative touches.

Sometimes the conductorís role is assumed elsewhere, and in this case, every time the principal trumpet raised his instrument, I leaned forward in my seat, since inevitably more glorious music was in store. Just as the snare drummer led the ensemble in the second concertís shattering Shostakovich Seventh Symphony, the trumpet player was the de facto leader, giving as noble a performance as Iíve ever heard. Of course Prokofievís masterpiece has color to spare -- such bassoon work! -- but whenever the trumpet beckoned, we followed.

Many of the more familiar sections, such as the Dance of the Knights, still sounded fresh on this occasion, with Gergiev brushing away any dust to reveal every detail of Prokofievís writing. Others such as the Dance with the Five Mandolins, with its shrill woodwind accompaniment, are amongst Prokofievís most inventive and most ear-catching, and sprang to life with the seemingly boundless energy that has become a Gergiev hallmark. The score is filled with little acerbic sections that remind you that this is the composer of those beefy piano sonatas and the Scythian Suite. But even so, by the closing pages I could feel my eyes watering, as Gergievís tenderness in Julietís death scene dovetailed smoothly with Prokofievís inspired rendering of the tragedy.

Perhaps some (like me) wanted an encore, but truthfully I could not imagine what could follow Prokofievís drama, especially when presented with such sweeping confidence and vivid emotions. As with the Shostakovich two days earlier, Gergiev transmitted the data with such fidelity that one really didnít want to hear anything for hours afterward.

Bruce Hodges




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