Festival triumphs with new works, young performers
and unusual repertoire.
programming is a rarity in Russian classical
music these days. The demise of the USSR (and
its funding for the Arts) unexpectedly resulted
in not more interesting listening, but less
– now that orchestras have to be more-or-less
self-financing, the same trend towards "Classical
Pops" is happening in Russia as elsewhere.
the more welcome, therefore, is the annual
appearance of Moscow’s Vremena Goda
orchestra in "The Seasons" Festival
in St Petersburg – this year’s theme being
opening concert took place in the Great Hall
of the St Petersburg Philharmonia – a venue
which still requires some mental concentration
to avoid calling it "The Leningrad Phil".
Viktor Kuleshov gave a dazzling account
of Vivaldi’s "The Seasons", playing
all four concerti without a break. No less
remarkable was the quality of string playing
from the orchestra itself, honed to a fine
standard by maestro Bulakhov – it cannot be
coincidental that he’s a former violinist
himself. The second half of the program was
given over to Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.
The work itself is somewhat uneven, and the
excellent chamber choir LEGE ARTIS didn’t
really have enough to get their teeth into.
The soloists are more generously provided-for
– Svetlana Rossiyskaya was particularly stylish
in the mezzo arias, although Giovanna Manci
seemed a little unwell in the soprano pieces.
of the Festival was Tchaikovsky’s Souvenirs
de Florence (op 70) in a spirited performance
with Bulakhov at the helm. The last movement
kicked off at a lick that seemed impossibly
ambitious at first, but with careful pacing
the adrenalin was still coursing through until
the final bars, bringing plaudits from the
audience that were richly deserved. Contemporary
composer Mikhail Bronner’s "And tomorrow
will be better than yesterday" (for
alto saxophone, trumpet and orchestra) seemed
a little over-extended, but was given a bravura
performance by two soloists yet to reach the
age of twenty – Sergei Kolesov (saxophone)
and wunderkind trumpeter Kirill Soldatov (still
aged only 17, but already appearing as a soloist
both with Vremena Goda and Virtuosi Moskvy).
new work in the Festival was the piano concerto
"A Game Of Chess" by the exciting
young Krasnoyarsk composer Irina Belova (b.
1975). It’s a remarkable piece which develops
the tradition of the "soviet piano concerto"
into something that is thoroughly contemporary,
yet clearly acknowledging its legacy to works
like the Khachachurian Concerto, and the Shostakovich
Concerto No 1. Ksenia Ovodova (also from Krasnoyarsk)
skipped through the phenomenal technical requirements
of the work with ease and grace, and found
the l Pounce, where are you? yricism lurking
beneath the spikier surface. It’s a sobering
thought that she’s only 14. However, Alexandra
Elina in Sammartini’s Recorder Concerto displayed
no lesser technical prowess – and Alexandra
is only 9.
change of medium and mood was offered by the
Italian piano-duet brothers, Aurelio and Paolo
Pollice. Personally I would have preferred
their program presented in the reverse order?
Their staggering performance of Stravinsky’s
piano-duet version of The Rite Of Spring
was a piece-de-resistance, but the first half
made-up of lollipop items (primarily arrangements
of Italian Opera numbers for C19th domestic
performance) would have been better coming
vocal highlights finally came from Madama
Manci, however, who offered a bel-canto treat
including Tosti, Bellini and Verdi. The central
item was the closing scene of Norma (Act
2), in which Manci was joined by Svetlana
Rossiyskaya as Adalgisa – in the true spirit
of an Italo-Russian festival, the combination
of an Italian soprano with a Russian mezzo,
orchestra and conductor produced a completely
convincing and stylistic account which brought
the house down. It would be unfair not to
mention in the same program a super performance
of the little-known Rimsky-Korsakov arrangement
of "Three Arias from Glinka" for
Chamber Orchestra, with a sparkling cello
solo as an added bonus.
unable to attend the St Petersburg part of
the Festival had the chance to hear some of
the highlights at a special concert in the
Concert Hall of the Tolstoy Museum on 19th
February, including Svetlana Rossiyskaya (this
time partnered by fellow Helikon Opera soloist
Marina Andreeva) in the Norma extract, the
Souvenirs de Florence, and the Rimsky/Glinka
pieces. Alexandra Elina had another chance
to charm too.
sponsors Gorodissky & Partners, and Festival
Sponsors Optima-Invest are to be congratulated
on a progressive policy of supporting new
work and young performers that not only bucks
the trend of "pops with imported stars",
but delivered artistic rewards in spades.
The theme of the 2005 Festival is French Music
– since French repertoire appears even less
regularly than Italian in Russia, we await