By Lawrence Budmen

Festival of the Arts Boca lived up to its name on Wednesday when the large audience at the Count de Hoernle Amphitheater at Mizner Parker received a triple musical treat – one of Russia’s finest orchestras, a cellist in the grand tradition, and a rising keyboard star.

The Russian National Orchestra produces a distinctive sound. Strings have the sonority and depth of a great organ and winds glow with color and transparency.

The orchestra’s principal guest conductor Vladimir Jurowski, one of the new generation of globe trotting maestros, heated up the chilly evening with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture that breathed fire. Jurowski’s traversal wore its heart on its sleeve when silvery strings (under concertmaster Alexei Bruni) took wing in the familiar love music. 

Tchaikovsky of a more stately, Mozartean variety followed when cellist Nina Kotova took the stage for Variations on a Rococo Theme. Despite some distortion from the amplification system, Kotova’s incredible richness of tone in the instrument’s lower register recalled such distinguished predecessors as Mstislav Rostropovich, Daniel Shafran, and Natalia Gutman. 

She shaped Tchaikovsky’s delicately chiseled tribute to the rococo era with imperial elegance, capturing the music’s shifting moods from playful to elegiac. Kotova’s final bravura display combined exceptional dexterity with showbiz flair 

Jurowski proved a wonderfully attentive accompanist, spotlighting the score’s balletic sweep. Rarely has Tchaikovsky’s prominent wind writing (which often emerges as an aural blur) been so beautifully articulated. 

Helene Grimaud had to compete with the roar of motorcycles outside the amphitheater during her performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor. Despite these brief distractions, the immensely talented Grimaud gave this pianistic symphony a performance of heaven storming proportions. 

She attacked the opening Maestoso with power pounding energy. Yet her lyrical impulses bedazzled the ear in the movement’s secondary theme and the noble Adagio. Her tone could serenely float and sing, as well as thunder. Grimaud the firebrand reemerged in the demonic rhythmic intensity of the Rondo finale. Switching pianistic gears with agility, she offered cascades of lightness and élan to the whirlwind arpeggios of the coda, bringing the audience to its feet for a prolonged ovation. 

With Tatiana Porshneva in the concertmaster’s seat, the Russian National’s strings took on the warmth and sheen of the best European orchestras. Jurowski unhurried, spacious tempo captured the score’s dark romantic fervor.

Copyright Sun-Sentinel


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