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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
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Gala from St Petersburg
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

Festive Overture, Op. 96f (1954) [6’07].
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, Op. 28cg (1863) [11’03].
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Concerto for Piano Left-Hand and Orchestradg (1930) [21’07].
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Eugene Onegin (1879) – Polonaiseg [5’05]. Pique Dame (1890) – Vy tak pechalny … Ya vas lyublyubf [7’02].
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) – Regnava del silenzioaf [9’15].
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Bohème (1896) – Quando men voaf [4’25].
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Don Carlo (1867) – O Carlo, ascoltabf [5’08].
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)

Adagio con variazioni, Op. 133ef (1903-10) [12’45].
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)

Kol Nidrei, Op. 47ef (1881) [12’11].
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)

Pagliacci (1892) – Nedda! … Silvio! A quest’oraabf [12’44].
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Fanfaref [1’13].
aAnna Netrebko (soprano); bDmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone); cViktor Tretyakov (violin); dElisso Virsaladze (piano); eMischa Maisky (cello); St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/fYuri Temirkanov, gNikolai Alekseev.
Rec. live at St Petersburg Grand Hall on June 1st, 2003.


What a magnificent treat this is! True, there is no doubt who TDK/EuroArts see as the most marketable person (product?) here, given the striking photo of Anna Netrebko on the cover (and the fact her name is highlighted in red and given extra space over Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Mischa Maisky (and pity poor Viktor Tretyakov and Elisso Virsaladze, who are in a lower type-face still). Having said that, and implied this is all marketing ploy, it has to be said that the musical evidence does bear out this implied hierarchy remarkably accurately.

The Shostakovich Overture is an appropriately fanfare-bedecked affair. With Temirkanov at the helm, the introduction is galvanised into a blazing crescendo into the Allegro. Temirkanov’s batonless conducting is famously idiosyncratic - he is a real conductor for the musicians, not for the audience – yet he certainly gets result. Watching him carefully, it is easy to wonder just where the bottom of his beat is. Nevertheless the results speak for themselves, with jollity galore (not that Temirkanov smiles much).

The Saint-Saëns, with soloist Viktor Tretyakov, has an Introduction with a lovely expansive feel to it (almost Sibelian!). The conductor, Nikolai Alekseev, looks rather text-bookish in demeanour. This is a dramatic reading though, and it is easy to be sucked in by Tretyakov’s easy virtuosity in this frothy piece. His stopping in the brief cadenza is simply superb.

Elissa Virsaladze is a name new to me. Ravel’s Left-Hand Concerto holds no terrors for her. Conductor Nikolai Alexeev prepares for Virsaladze’s entrance in exemplary fashion. Virsaladze is an eloquent player for whom Ravel’s writing holds no terrors; interesting that you can hear her fingernail clearly on the first major gliss! The only problem is that neither soloist nor orchestra fully enter Ravel’s world – take for example the pianist’s staccato, which tends towards the harsh, born more of Moscow than Paris.

The Tchaikovsky Polonaise is more of an interlude between soloists than anything else. Alekseev manages to make it more than just this, though, with a real bite to rhythms and a generally celebratory feel. But interlude it only can be, as the star is up next, Anna Netrebko in a mesmeric account of Lucia’s Act 1 Cavatina from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. A great sense of line and a real grasp of the dramatic moment are by now Netrebko knowns, but her cadenzas astonish even on repeated listening, as do her perfect scales. The Puccini Bohème excerpt overlaps with her Prom appearance this year (http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2004/May-Aug04/prom73.htm ) and she is no less impressive on home turf, projecting the most amazing tenderness in the later parts of the aria.

Hvorostovsky’s Tchaikovsky, big of voice and identifiably him in sound, rather stood in the shadow of Netrebko in the emotive stakes. It was easy to remember Hvorostovsky was doing a single excerpt as part of a mixed gala concert, whereas with Netrebko one is transported to the opera in question itself. Better is ‘O Carlo ascolta’ from Verdi’s Don Carlo, more dramatically alive and with a nice legato line.

In repertoire terms, it is Respighi’s Adagio con variazioni that provided the discovery for this reviewer. Maisky makes you feel this is an undiscovered masterwork. The terrain is varied and Maisky responds masterfully to the Romantic outpourings, the segments that need more bite and those that need generous, almost refulgent, tone. The almost Wagnerian harmonic slip Respighi uses near the end is most memorable.

The rhapsodic glow of Bruch’s Kol Nidrei unsurprisingly finds Maisky also in top form, . The pacing is spot-on, as is Maisky’s awareness of harmonic shifts. A pity applause comes in too fast at the end, ruining the atmosphere.

The final item (the Rachmaninov fanfare is more of a musical ‘farewell’) is a 13-minute section from Pagliacci, uniting our two vocal stars, here as Nedda and Silvio. Netrebko confirms impressions and seems more aware of the words, both the sensuality of their very sound and of their meaning, soaring magnificently hen required. Hvorostovsky is more earth-bound ,,, it is Netrebko that remains deeply ingrained in the memory.

The Rachmaininov is wheeled out after 11 soloists have taken a united bow. A large, brassy, brazen minute’s worth (1’13 to be precise), it is all trumpets and drums.

This must surely have been a concert to remember. The atmosphere does not quite transfer across onto DVD, but do see it if you can, if only for the Respighi (Maisky) and anything Netrebko contributes to.

Colin Clarke


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