RUSSIAN NATIONAL ORCHESTRA
CONCERT ASSOCIATION (3-16-06)
By Lawrence Budmen
When a good Russian orchestra plays the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the results can be magical. The Russian National Orchestra is very good indeed. When the Concert Association presented the Moscow based ensemble on March 16, conductor Vladimir Jurowski was the wizard of the hour.
A rising star in Europe, Jurowski is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic, Music Director of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and a frequent guest maestro at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Jurowski is considered a rising star in Europe and for good reason. He ignited the stage of the Jackie Gleason Theater with his very personal brand of strong, incendiary Tchaikovsky.
Pianist Yefim Bronfman rolled thunderous octaves in the Russian master’s Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat minor. Bronfman is an old fashioned powerhouse virtuoso tempered by an instinctive sense of musicality. The lovely Andante semplice was spun with airy, balletic grace by Jurowski and Bronfman brought his less bombastic, sensitive side to this alluring movement. In the concluding Allegro con fuoco Bronfman unleashed power pounding keyboard fireworks. This was high gloss Tchaikovsky; often phrased with imperial grandeur.
Jurowski led a combustible performance of the Manfred Symphony in B minor. The dark, foreboding atmosphere of Byron’s poem Manfred found a mirror image in Tchaikovsky. This large scale symphonic essay owes much to the sound world of Wagner and Bruckner with its stentorian brass and almost choir-like strings. A sprawling orchestral epic, the score is one of Tchaikovsky’s most imaginative and rewarding works.
Sonorous brass and velvety woodwinds produced an awesome wave of sound in the tempestuous first movement. Jurowski evoked gossamer winds and harp in the Vivace con spirito (second movement) and gorgeous, full bodied strings in the pastoral Andante con moto. He whipped up orchestral fury in the out of control Russian dance of the finale. The coda (with organ joining arching strings) was eloquently projected.
Repeated standing, cheering ovations brought excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s eternal Nutcracker ballet – the Waltz of the Flowers and Pas de Deux. Rarely is this music played with such minute attention to detail and rhythmic drive. Jurowski conjured up the dance like verve and Slavic fervor of Russian romantic ballet in full flower.