Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gergiev & the Mariinsky Orchestra

Valery Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra
Mon, Mar 22, 2010 8:00pm
Davies Hall

Mariinsky Orchestra
formerly Kirov Orchestra

Valery Gergiev, conductor
Denis Matsuev, piano

Berlioz: Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15

Anatoly Lyadov: Musical Snuff Box
Anatoly Lyadov: Baba-Yaga

I heard the 2nd of 2 fat programs given by the hard-working Mariinsky Orchestra at Davies Hall earlier this week. I wasn't familiar with the Les Troyens excerpts at all, but I like Berlioz's music & its often odd proportions. It was certainly easy to recognize the hunt, with its echoing horn calls, & the storm at sea, reminiscent of The Flying Dutchman. Gergiev created a nice diminuendo at the end.

The Rachmaninoff 3 sounded a bit restrained to me rather than Romantic or even schmaltzy. Pianist Denis Matsuev plays with effortless speed & with an evenness of tone. The audience gave him an enthusiastic ovation, with those near the stage standing. He responded with an encore by Anatoly Lyadov called Musical Snuff Box, in which he imitates a mechanical music box.

There had already been some impressive orchestral playing, but the Shostakovich Symphony No. 15 really made me love this orchestra. There were great solos from all sections, beginning with the beautifully played opening flute solo. The brass chorales in the 2nd movement were always perfectly in tune. This movement also featured wonderful cello & trombone solos. Even the little passage for celesta & vibraphone caught my attention. I like that the violas sit on the outside, so every time they have something interesting, you really notice it.

Gergiev's technique is still a puzzle to me. He led without either a podium or a baton. I have no idea how the orchestra plays together so well, since his directions consist largely of hand fluttering & vague dance-like moves. During the final movement, he became airborne just before a big climax. Yet I can't complain about the results. The Shostakovich was correctly mordant, & he made the audience laugh at the fractured Rossini quotation in the 1st movement. A sense of foreboding became present by the 2nd movement. The ending, with its ticking clockwork whirring away, left me with an unsettling feeling of dread. The evening closed with another Anatoly Lyadov piece, Baba-Yaga, in which Gergiev & the orchestra showed they could also be effectively galumphing & boisterous.


Civic Center said...

If you don't yet know "Les Troyens," you have a wonderful treat ahead of you for this lifetime. It's some of the greatest music ever written, definitely Berlioz at his best and most ambitious. And if you haven't yet read his memoirs, do. They're funny and fabulous and a first-person account of Paris in the early 19th century, the coolest place for an artist in the world.

Axel Feldheim said...

Berlioz is not performed that frequently, apart from the Music 101 Symphonie fantastique, & I suspect he is an underrated composer. A friend recently heard Gergiev's 2 night concert version of Les Troyens in Carnegie Hall & pronounced it Berlioz's best music as well. Thanks for the recommending his memoirs, which, being a boorish sort, I have not read.