About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



You Can Hear Russia From West 65th Street

New York
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Centre
11/12/2008 -  & Nov. 13*, 15, 2008
Anatoly Lyadov: Kikimora, Opus 63
Aram Khachaturian: Violin Concerto
Giya Kancheli: Abi ne viderem for String Orchestra, Alto Flute, Piano/harpsichord and Bass guitar
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird Suite (1919)

Gil Shaham (Violin), Robert Langevin (Alto flute), Eric Huebner (Piano/harpsichord), Jeffrey Carney (Bass guitar)
New York Philharmonic, Andrey Boreyko (Conductor)

Andrey Boreyko (© Christoph Rüttger)

With two Russian operas at Juilliard this weekend, an all-Russian program at the Philharmonic, and the splendid St. Petersburg-born conductor Andrey Boreyko at the helm, we don’t have to be in Alaska to hear Russia. Anybody passing in the vicinity of West 65th Street is bound to catch the sounds of belching trombones, hard-stringed violins and the vibes of elemental demons rising out of the Urals.

Unfortunately, many of the Phil[‘s audience left right after Gil Shaham’s performance of the Khachaturian Violin Concerto, and that was a bad mistake. Not that Shaham was anything but his brilliant self. Yet Andrey Boreyko had some surprises fin the second half, and they missed out on the most interesting program.

This is a conductor whose range obviously extends to other music, but in his first appearance with the Phil last year, he shone above all in the Shostakovich Fourth Symphony. So at his second appearance, there was no reason not to give him a quartet of Russians to choose from.

Of course the audience favorite was Gil Shaham, because both he and the Khachaturian are so easy to hear. The Violin Concerto obviously makes more demands on the player than the audience. The Armenian-born composer has only slightly off-beat melodies, but his grand climaxes are very grand, and his rhythms brisk and attractive.

Shaham, who can play just about anything, got in the mood right away by practically running on stage. After just a few bars, he lifted his Stradavarius and launched into the work with his usual passion. At times, he seemed to be getting ahead of the orchestra, but that was an aural illusion. He was playing so many notes at a time, that he seemed to have that double velocity. But the young Maestro Boreyko—who seemed to have a perfect relationship with the young violinist—kept everything in check.

And Shaham did have fun. He practically danced across half the stage, made those fiendish harmonics of the cadenza sound like child’s play, and in the very beautiful second movement, he allowed the orchestra to take their bountiful climaxes. It was a nice show, but Shaham is worth more than a good showy concerto.

Boreyko began with a highly atmospheric Kikimora from Anatoly Liadov. Liadov should be a favorite for all writers. Not only for his wonderful Slavic sounds and his love of the Russian supernatural (Diaghilev originally wanted Liadov to write music for Firebird, but because Liadov was either the laziest composer who ever lived or the greatest procrastinator.

The final work was the real Firebird, for which Boreyko had three advantages. First, because is Russian, second because he has firm control over his orchestra, but allows them to fire at will. Third, is that this 1919 version of the Suite has an abbreviated string section. The result was that the orchestra sounded more transparent than ever, that the brass section was more dominant than ever, and that the huge tutti blazoned out with even greater military power.

But the work which was most memorable was Giya Kancheli’s piece for string orchestra, alto flute, piano and bass guitar with a Latin title meaning, “I went away so that I could not see”. I have always had a great regard for this mystic of composers. He is the last person one would suspect of starting life as a jazz pianist (which he was), because his music today is filled with silences, sudden outbursts, and some of the most beautiful orchestral splashes of color from a his mystical imagination.

This work had his usual trademarks, but the way he handled the strings was ravishing. At times, they played in unison (yes, those sudden outbursts). But at other times, they were divided up, not only in tones, but in bowings, since they were all bowing in different directions, giving yet another rich Eastern Orthodox texture to the music. The flute, bass guitar and piano were used sparingly (at times almost unheard), but came in at exactly the right places to give the strings the time to make their ethereal sounds.

Granted, one must be ready to accept his silences and his intense flare-ups. But to those ready to accept his orphic utterances, this was yet another strata in the endless Byzantine mysteries of Russian music.

Harry Rolnick



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com