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03-16-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 1
Post ID: 4029
Reply to: 4029
Spivakov, NPoR Orchestra and Olga Kern

There is a lot that might say about the subject but I won’t. Returning today after the performance of Vladimir Spivakov’s new orchestra: National Philharmonic of Russia and Olga Kern as piano player I will  say very short:

Today is March 16 and if you near New York, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Both Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, California or Pennsylvania then do whatever it takes, fly, run, drive but you need to attbd this concert. To hear what Olga Kern does with NPoR during Rachmaninoff’s second movement of Second Concerto is as deep musical blood transfusion experience as it could get.

NPoR.jpg

I will be working out of NY City next week and the very first thing that I did after I returned home was booking their March 19 performance in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.

Today Program:
Shostakovich  Estival Overture
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique”

Monday March 19, 2007 Avery Fisher Hall at 8:00pm
Shostakovich Festive Overture
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor
Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances

Try to catch them, it well worth it:
http://www.harmoniamundi.com/usa/artistes_agenda.php?artist_id=1776

Rgs,
Romy the caT


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-18-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 2
Post ID: 4031
Reply to: 4029
Olga Kern and Russian’s National Philharmonic

If you followed, a few days ago in the conversation with “Michaelz” I was spinning my usual plot, bitching that most of the today’s pianists play, unintelligent as senseless, almost like with the "rubber fingers”:

 http://www.GoodSoundClub.com/TreeItem.aspx?PostID=3863

The last Friday performance of National Philharmonic of Russia (NPoR), led by Vladimir Spivakov and their pianist was one of those very rare exceptions. In fact the exception was of a high magnitude…

I never heard Russian’s National Philharmonic before. The name a little confusing. It is the Spivakov’s new orchestra:

http://www.playbillarts.com/news/article/6057.html

I never was a big fun of what Spivakov did with “Moscow Virtuosi” (his former orchestra) and I hardly knew what to expect. When they opened up with Shostakovich Festival Overture it was immediately obvious that it was different orchestra then we accustom here in Boston. I was superbly disciplined, highly professional sound, the disciplined up to the point that they allow themselves some scripted playfulness, still very tasteful playfulness, the playfulness that was very god for the vulgar Shostakovich  with his depriving sense  of humor. I very much liked what I hard in the Overture and then the Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto came….

When they opened with Second Concerto I was a little scared – they did it WAY too slow. It was similar tempi in the painful slowness to Gieseking playing first movement of Third Concerto with Barbirolli in 1939. Well,  if the Gieseking’s first movement was the best Rach3 first movement ever committed to recording media then why was I scared? I was scared because to play Rachmaninoff VERY slow is VERY VERY dangerous. The ultra-slow Rachmaninoff demands too much inner-force, too much REAL confidence and too much balls from a player. The Rachmaninoff concertos have some very freakish ability to “ring”, to “resonate” a player, to expose his/her ability to deals with enormity or “load”. The slower pianist goes the more “resolution” and the more demands in this “exposure”. Not to mentioning that the slower playing has much more phonetic, parasitological and punctuation burden… So, is not wonder that most of the players tend to race through the Rachmaninoff Concertos fast, trying to “sink”, to subdue the “possible details”, hiding everything into fast tempo and techniques.. With good techniques, that many players possess, they  stay about the danger, crashing superficially through the movements but there is nothing else in their play then juts a good “notes rendering”…..

So, when NPoR opened with Second Concerto as slow as they did I was wondering…  The Russian’s National Philharmonic is very lush and in a way “slow” orchestra. They do not have that “burst capacity”. I personally feel that it come form that way in wich Spivakov positioned musicians.  He wide spread them a across the entire stage and in some instances the players were sitting over 10 feet from each other. So, what I presume happen – the Sound from the instruments was overly randomized and the edge of the attacks was stretch over and muffed across space. It was disadvantage in a way, not as huge though as it could be considering the chosen slow tempi …

So, the firs movement was OK, Olga Kern did here and there some wrong notes but the orchestra was very supportive and very considering – a big difference from the typical BSO play that rarely give a dam about a soloist. All together the NPoR and Ms. Kern sounded very nice, it was different expressionism from what I would like to hear but looking what THEY were trying to it was QUITE GOOD. It took for me some time to get accustomed to that tempo and then, when my expatiations where “in tune,” then it was actual very nice.

The second movement… This turned out to be the punch line of the entire concepts.  Very slow, superbly smart and amazingly balanced. The NPoR’s soft, un-edgey sound was absolutely perfect for the movement… Then the Olga Kern’s took over. It hard to explain her play but it was different from even her first movement. Some second echelon of feelings was turned on and Olga took her play way out there. It was not the play in a normal sense as the notes and “phrases” were gone and were replaced with “piano moaning”. Instead of the sequence of the notes it was gloriously-torturing metaphysical sound with Olga as a Sound creator. She was slow, very liquid but at the same time each her statement was very distinctive. Returning back to the conversation about the “rubber fingers touch”– the Olga Kern’s play in the second movement was as far from it as it imaginable. She made efforts to pamper and to treasure each tonal message.  The way how she holed poses and how she opened up the notes was sort of magic and in way remained me what Cortot did in his best years.  Each her note was loaded with sensitivity and with “second meaning” – and this second meaning made all difference. The Olga’s notes were not the notes in a normal sense but rather sonic reflections of something else or something more. What was also very fascinating to hear that Olga plugged in that “something more” her own reflections and the resulting Sound was nothing short of sadistically-stunning. I was so intimate, so special and so personal that Olga’s play sounded as she had sex with Sound…. So did I, and so any person in the Symphony Hall that evening…. It was so “out there” that no audiences made any sounds during the entire Second Movement…. It was truly extraordinary and I was praying that it might never stop…

Well, as everything else in this life: any event came to it’s end Olga finished with the most extraordinary coda of the Second Movement I ever imagined in my mind. I did not care about the Third Movement, where both Olga and NPoR butchered quite a lot - it was OK but nothing special…

Well, frankly speaking I did not paid a lot of attention to the Third Movement as I was still under hypnoses of what I heard in the second one movement. I was still in that semi-hypnoses state during the intermission and the whole two first movements of thye Pathetique. The Pathetique was generally very good - it was the Mravinsky-type of Pathetique. The NPoR and the Spivakov were fine, however in the Pathetique’s Third Movement they showed off some VERY serious class of musicianship. The Spivakov’s Third movement was slower then textbook-like Mravinsky 1961 Third Movement. The Mravinsky with his crashing dynamic and almost-offensive XRay-like articulation plays the Pathetique’s Third Movement as a perfect march. However, the Mravinsky’s march has some elements of dance, almost rumba-like dance. Spivakov has completely different orchestra – way less violent and abrasive then Leningrad Philharmonic. So, Spivakov used his orchestra differently. The Spivakov’s orchestra with it’s atypical for Russian orchestras lush was good for Brahmas or for Saint-Saens symphonies and Spivakov fully knowing it put the best of his orchestra in use. The Third Movement was relatively slow and probably not as “marchy” as I used to but you have to hear HOW Spivakov and the NPoR did WHAT THEY INTENDED TO DO.  I have to note that it was my first live Pathetique when orchestra was positioned with first and second violins on the opposite sides. So, the way how NPoR cared the waves from the first violins, across the woodwinds to the second violins and then back to the cello section, synchronizing all these orchestral tricks with the rhythms of “Allegro molto vivace” was in a way an orchestral freak show. I was sitting there like a Cat who found herself in jar of sour cream and was clearly realizing the THIS level of orchestral playing is VERY seldom to witness

From that NPoR  play I kind of “wake me up” a little but still to the rest of the concert, including the Olga Kern’s encores I was under a deep influence from what I head in the Second Rachmaninoff’s movement. Furthermore, I was under its influence many hours after the concert…. I was waking across the Boston snowy streets that night holding within myself the “big secret” of juts heard Kern’s second movement.

Sure, it the extraordinary Ms. Kern’s second movement was a perfectly staged performance but is it how it should be?  Anyhow it was quite a seldom event when my ego collapsed to the size of decimal point and Sound via its supersensory nature took a full control over me. I said the “seldom event” because the AMPLITUDE of that influence…

I will be most likely catching Olga Kern and Spivakov’s NPoR before they left US in NY City next week and if my schedule allows me then in Connecticut. I do not know if the “event” I experiences was the Kern’s scripted routine or it was juts a lucky accident. Anyway, I would like very much to experience it again…

There is clip with Olga Kern play the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto with DIFFERENT ORCHESTRA during her Cliburn Competition:

I do NOT like her play in there. Well, I should not say “do not like” - I shell say that it was OK but truly nothing special. However, it might give you some idea who she is. Olga has few CDs out there. They are good but not extraordinary. If she record Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto then you bet I will have it…

Well, the NPoR and Vladimir Spivakov is very much the orchestra to watch.  Olga Kern is obviously also in the watch list. It also truly pays off when orchestra bring own pianist. NPoR and Kern will be for another month in US and I think for next season they have a tour in Asia… I just wish the Celebrity Series:

http://www.celebrityseries.org/06_PRESS/NatlPhil_Rel.htm

…under umbrella of which the concert took place allow broadcasting their performances and I would have a chance to record this beauty…

Rgs,
Romy the caT


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-19-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Michaelz
Posts 38
Joined on 03-01-2007

Post #: 3
Post ID: 4034
Reply to: 4031
Sold out
Too bad the concert is all sold out in my town.

Just curious:  you said that her notes are loaded with second meaning; what is the first meaning then?
03-19-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 4
Post ID: 4035
Reply to: 4034
The irrational numbers of music.

 Michaelz wrote:
Too bad the concert is all sold out in my town.

Just curious:  you said that her notes are loaded with second meaning; what is the first meaning then?

I still would try to get in there but it is me. I think it will be an opportunity to pick some tickets form the crowd before the performance. I will be many Russians in there, many of then will be old, so it will be a chance that some of then will not be able to do it….

The first meaning, the second meaning… It is very simple. The nature of musicality is that tones and sequences of tones crate response in listener awareness. It is almost biological as the entire musical culture, the progress of musical instruments, the rules of harmonies, the methods of compositions and many other things… all based upon the adequacy of humane perception and unanimity of human reaction to different tonal irritations. This adequacy is the first meaning of the tones. The second meaning is what between the lines, or mathematically speaking - the irrational numbers….

Rgs,
Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-20-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 5
Post ID: 4036
Reply to: 4029
The National Philharmonic of Russia in NY

I would like to follow up with my initial post. The last nigh I went to NY’s Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center to hear the Spivakov NPoR. I have great sit (Orchestra RowM, center, 3 sits on the left – perfect for piano concertos). Funny: ahead of me was a guy how was Olga Kern brother (also a conductor) and next to me was a guy who manages sales of Yamaha in US. Everything was great but when they made a public announcement to shot down the telephones I immediately understood that I was severally screed. The Avery Fisher Hall had zero response from my sit and the amassment sounded absolutely revolting. I was about to run form those “best sits in the house” but the NPoR begin to roll on the stages…

They opened up with the same Shostakovich Festival Overture. The orchestra performed brilliantly – what a wonderful peace to open program and why would believe that Shostakovich might be so interesting!!! Frankly the NPoR plays everything better then in Boston, not to mention that they increased the size of Orchestra, bring more chairs to the tail of the sections. Still, not mater how good the NPoR was the sound was near unbearable. Sever Hall’s compression, ever worth then you have our]t of 74db sensitive speaker with lock of any articulation in any region of spectra. It sounded like a mouse sitting in the bottom of Grand Canyon and scramming at all his rodent forces but it makes of course no effect o the sound of the Grand Canyon…

So, when Olga Kern played the Rachmaninoff it was equity disgusting, even more as her piano sounded like $34.99 keyboard form Kmart. It was probably the most horrible sound that I ever head in concert Hall and I sensually feel that to rent out the Halls like this is a crime against humanity. I am sure that the idiots who designed this Hall were celebrated AES engineers, so it one extra time proves these worth… Anyhow, the Rachmaninoff was boring like hell, although Olga did play (technically) better then in Boston (or perhaps I was not able to hear anything). Frankly she did look slightly board and annoyed as well. I did not know what she head at his sit but it looked to me that she head the same crap as we did as in her forte she become angry and aggressive and it was absolutely non-musical. Anyhow my experience I was disasters. One note I would like to make – do you know that majority of toady high-end equipment is made to imitate the very same sound of the Avery Fisher Hall and alike? When you ask me why I so much hate to recent industry-promoted acoustic celebrities (like Magico  and Kharms) then I do it only because that the deliver exactly the same inverted sound of Avery Fisher Hall)

During intermission I began to ask locals what I should go in odder to have any more or less civilized sound. A person #4 understood exactly what I was asking and sent me to a specific balcony at third floor. I was waiting for the beginning of the second past of the concert and to my pleasure I saw that at the “best balcony” in that dam Concert Hall the entire first row is absolutely empty. I dived there and here is what I spend the second part. The sound from this row was absolutely different then from the orchestra rows, not as great as in some better halls but near acceptable. The second part of the program the NPoR played the Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. It is not my favorite pieces but NPoR did it extremely well. They play Rachmaninoff bold and large, but in the same time with no efforts as all, in the way how the best German orchestras during the best times played Richard Strauss’ tone poems. I was more then pleased and I assure you that we in Boston very seldom head this type of play. What NPoR demonstrated from my point of view put them in the league of the very selected world-orchestras. When I hear such a play from Russian orchestra I felt truly proud to be Russian-born. Truly remarkable! There was a few encores in the end, including a phenomenally effective Alfred Schnittke’s opening.. .
 
Anyhow, it was a great event and in a better Hall the NPoR could be such an experience…

Rgs,
Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-20-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 6
Post ID: 4040
Reply to: 4036
National Philharmonic of Russia in Escondido

National Philharmonic of Russia in Escondido
by George Weinberg-Harter

Once I heard a radio interview with the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who had left what was then the Soviet Union to become conductor of our own National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. When asked which in his opinion was the best orchestra in the U.S.S.R., maestro Rostropovich answered, "The best is Leningrad Philharmonic." Then he laughingly added: "Only trouble is, they can’t play!"

Rostropovich may have been having his bit of a joke. But this was during what is now viewed as a period of national stagnation under Brezhnev; and the Leningrad orchestra suffered from the emigration of its Jewish string players. Today the Soviet Union has dissolved into air, Russia is again Russia, Leningrad (and its Philharmonic) is once more Saint Petersburg, and – on the evidence of the recent concert by the National Philharmonic of Russia at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, under the direction of its artistic director and principle conductor, Vladimir Spivakov – Russian orchestral performance has certainly returned to a quality commensurate with the nation’s long and glorious musical tradition.

It is true that only a couple of clearly Jewish names (one Tsukerman, one Rubinshteyn) could be detected amongst the strings in this large 108 piece orchestra. (No skeleton crew on this tour!) Much of that illustrious tradition of musicianship indeed seems to have moved on. But the sizeable and prominent string section appeared to be quite young and about half female (with even a double bass player named Anna) – a relatively recent breakthrough even in the United States. (A video I recently watched of the New York Philharmonic in 1968 under Bernstein revealed no female players at all.) The Russian winds and percussion, however, proved an almost purely male preserve, save for a flautist called Svetlana.

The most striking and illustrious female player, however, was the concert’s featured soloist, Olga Kern, who played the piano part in Sergei Rachmaninov’s deservedly popular "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" – a concerto-like theme and variations. Though not an easy work, I have heard it said that concert pianists love to play it. (Bill Murray even did a sort of brief Rachmaninov for Dummies version in "Ground Hog Day.") And it probably has never driven any piano players over the verge of sanity, as Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto is reputed to have done. The elegant and self-possessed La Kern completed playing the Rhapsody apparently a little emotionally drained, but clearly still in full possession of her wits.

Despite a plenitude of other marvelous Russian composers in the repertory, no symphony management has probably ever gone broke by programming lots of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Any "Tchaikovsky Night" is usually the sell-out of the season. And the Russian Philharmonic has not missed a bet by presenting a big Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov double bill for their tour, topped off with an effervescent overture by Shostakovich. Russian composers, and Russian music generally, are popularly supposed to be dogged by a certain melancholia, even lugubriousness. Think of those basso Orthodox chants and Volga boatmen. All their joyful trepaks, waltzes, and scherzos notwithstanding, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky often get the rap for representing the woeful Slavic soul. And not entirely without reason (or nyedarom, "not for nothing," in the characteristic Russian idiom). In Tchaikovsky we are ever returning to his typical descending phrases, to recurring stark motifs, from the Manfred Symphony, through "Queen of Spades" and the Fifth Symphony, to the final emotionally devastating movement of the "Pathetique," programmatically linked to grim concepts such as Fate. It’s as if that fatal glass of water (the cholera-ridden one that Tchaikovsky, according to legend, is supposed to have suicidally downed) is always waiting for him somewhere down the road. But whereas a sensation of self-pity often seems to cling to Tchaikovsky’s dumps, there is always something noble about Rachmaninov’s melancholy – a seeming sad acceptance but not fear of death, evinced by his frequent quotations of the Gregorian "Dies Irae" motif, sometimes in almost jubilant forms. If that fatal glass of water is for Tchaikovsky half empty, for Rachmaninov it’s half full.

Dmitri Shostakovich may have had good reason for the miserable moods that seem to show in most photographs of him – or perhaps it’s dyspepsia. Did the chelovek never smile? Certainly, though, he had grief enough imposed on him by Comrade Stalin and the Great Motherland War. (Consider the groveling subtitle of his Fifth Symphony: "A Soviet Artist’s Reply to Just Criticism.") But his Festive Overture, Opus 96 (1954 ... hmm, a year after Stalin’s death), which happily kicked off the concert, shows a different side of him – perhaps one that might have prevailed in his personality if world-historical conditions had been kinder. The piece has gleeful pizzaz, like glorified circus music, and galloping rhythms taken at a fine pace by maestro Spivakov and the bouncing bows of his huge string section. An overture like this was surely a fine way of starting the program.

And then Olga Kern entered for the Rachmaninov Rhapsody.

Olga marched onto the stage, a bright red star among the blacks and whites – tall and willowy with chin-length blond hair, in a stunning backless and sleeveless red dress. There was absolute silence in the house throughout Olga’s performance – nary a cough in the house (and there were coughs a-plenty later during the Tchaikovsky Fifth). The orchestra began the simple nearly skeletal introduction, and she played her first few notes casually, almost absently (Oh, it’s begun.), lifting first one hand and letting it fall languidly back into her lap, and then the other. Then she became transported with the music, playing with passionate intensity, executing with ease the rapid passages, her stiletto-heeled foot urging the pedal. Sometimes her back was ramrod straight, sometimes bent in concentration over the keyboard, with her hair falling forward. Her hands galloped across the keys and struck them with such force at times that she would rise out of her seat, or her arms would go flying back, as if she’d been stung by them.

Not all pianist need show such animation. In a recent concert at the Neurosciences Auditorium, John Lill played several Beethoven sonatas with remarkable power, precision, and passion, while maintaining a certain characteristic English impassiveness of mien and posture. But if Olga Kern needed to indulge herself in such stormy Slavic writhings to achieve her own splendid results, who is to gainsay her? Not I! The Rachmaninov Rhapsody, with, as the title implies, its many shifts of free and often exalted expression, fairly encourages such enthusiasm.

And yet the Rhapsody is a wonderfully complex and interesting work as well. Rachmaninov has sometimes – particularly during the past Modernist heyday – been unfairly denigrated for his popular and unreconstructed Romanticism. To dismiss Rachmaninov’s often pyrotechnic formal musicianship as a composer, which manages to coexist with the lush sensuousness of his melodies, is as shortsighted as to assume that a beautiful blonde can not be a brilliant concert pianist. Following Paganini himself, many fine composers have tried their hands at spinning out sets of variations on his famous theme. But it seems to me that, out of them all, Paganini included, Rachmaninov absolutely takes the biscuits. He even finds places to ingeniously weave in his favorite "Dies Irae" motif. And the most astonishing and moving moment comes in his eighteenth variation (Andante Cantabile), when he takes the fidgety Paganini theme, inverts it, slows it down, and turns into something devastatingly lovely and purely, romantically Rachmaninovian. It is the memorable pinnacle of the piece. Olga played it with great and lingering passion. At the ends of lyrical passages her arms would rise, gracefully curving from the keys, arabesquing upwards as if she were tracing the dying strains as they dissolved, to rest in the air around her face and then to casually hook her hair back around her ear. The intensity and pace of the final variations brought her to a standing position (à la Little Richard) at their conclusion. And then, with the last dying fall, she collapsed over the keyboard, her arms drooping, all spent. What marvelous histrionics! What gorgeous playing!

For an encore she repeated that eighteenth variation with, if possible, even greater passion – enough to bring this unreconstructed romantic to tears.

Tchaikovky’s Symphony Number Five in E minor, Opus 64, after the interval, was a welcome old friend. I had listened to my old LP of it so many times in my early teenage years as to practically wear the grooves out, but had not heard the work much for some time. I found it as engaging as ever, with its kaleidoscopic moods, in the Russian Philharmonic’s emotional wringer of a performance. As every schoolboy knows, the entire work is haunted throughout, from first to last, by a theme that is a sort of mournful idée fixe, again associated (in the extra-musical mind) with some kind of concept like fate or even doom. It begins the first movement, dismally seeming to creep upwards a bit and then, enervated, falling back down into utter misery again, as is often the pattern with this sort of Tchaikovsky theme. Much as Berlioz does with his own recurring idée in the Symphonie Fantastique, Tchaikovsky sometimes develops the theme, at other moments just brings it back for brief and often threatening quotations, disrupting the flow of other prettier or more serene melodies. One such is a gorgeous singing horn solo in the second movement, here played with sweetly languishing slowness. A charming and wistful waltz, one of Tchaikovsky’s specialties, adorns the third movement, punctuated by a funny sort of scampering and scurrying constrasting section, which always reminds me, proleptically, of hectic city motorcar traffic, a bit like the Paris taxi horns in Gershwin’s "An American in Paris." The waltz’s innocent return is rattled by Fate again. But in the final movement the melancholy mean fate motif, turning from minor to major, emerges, quite a reformed character, full of seeming optimism in a triumphant and gladsome Andante maestoso followed by a final allegro vivace like a great happy whirling carousel ride. That fatal glass of water seems to have been, for the time, deferred.

Maestro Spivakov treated what was obviously a very well pleased audience to three encores of delicious Tchaikovsky ballet sugarplums: two of the national dances from the second act of "Swan Lake," and, at last, a brilliant mercurial performance of the Russian Dance from "The Nutcracker," returning the concert full circle to the expression of Slavic high spirits.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-20-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 7
Post ID: 4041
Reply to: 4040
A New Bridge to Old Russia

A New Bridge to Old Russia
By Heuwell Tircuit

When the rather newly minted National Philharmonic of Russia ended its local debut concert, Sunday evening in Davies Symphony Hall, the audience was on its feet, wildly cheering and even whistling. Under the sound leadership of violinist-turned-conductor Vladimir Spivakov, you would have thought this was an orchestra with a 100-year-old tradition, so beautifully balanced and flawlessly stylish were its performances. But no, the orchestra was founded only in 2003, with support from the Russian Cultural Ministry on a commission from President Vladimir Putin.

Spivakov opened with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture Fantasy, followed by Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op.18. After intermission, Spivakov led the orchestra in Rachmaninov’s last orchestral work, the Symphonic Dances, Op. 45. As an encore he offered the Trepak from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet. The young virtuoso Olga Kern served as soloist in the concerto, and added a solo encore, Rachmaninov’s transcription of the Gopak from Mussorgsky’s unfinished comic opera, Sorochintsy Fair.

Although recently formed, the National Philharmonic has gathered a large number of fine, experienced players — likely by raiding other, existing organizations. (There were no shortage of gray-haired musicians on stage.) They sat in classical formation, first violins to the left and seconds to the right, which added much clarity to the textural interplay common in these scores. The warmth of the overall string section, along with great precision of intonation and bowing, no doubt at Spivakov’s insistence, made a stunning first impression.

Rare Refinement and Beautiful Sound

Then, too, the orchestra’s attention to minute dynamic shifts was as polished as the Boston Symphony’s during the legendary Sergei Koussevitzky era (1924-1949). They consistently maintained gradations between piano, mezzo-piano and pianissimo, and louder volume levels as well. As remarkable as this was, their strongest asset was a beauty of sound that almost never faltered (More on that later.) Make no mistake, this ensemble must now be counted among the top 10, internationally: It is as fine an ensemble as any I have encountered.

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, a one-movement symphony that he chose to designate “Fantasy Overture,” opens with a quiet chorale. The National Philharmonic played it most delicately, before all hell broke loose in the sonata-allegro heart of the piece. When the funerary coda rolled around, it proved, in this performance, as impressively moving as anything in the composer’s operas or symphonies. Of course, the work is like mother’s milk to most any orchestra or concert audience. But this fact only made the orchestra's singular performance more remarkable. It wasn’t an “oh, that warhorse again” event, but a refreshing experience.

Pianist Kern is young and tall, with flowing blond hair, and fingers that posses all the dexterity and speed of a falcon. Those assets no doubt helped her win the Rachmaninov International Piano Competition and the 2001 Van Cliburn International Competition. You might have seen her gold medal performance of the finale of Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 3 on TV’s Classical Arts Showcase program. In either concerto, her problems were consistent.

A Headstrong, Unmusical Soloist

First, she had rhythmic flaws and was inattentive. During complex virtuoso passages, tempo be damned, she would dart ahead, paying little or no heed to what the orchestra was doing. She caused ensemble sloppiness several times during this performance. Then, too, her feeling for rubato in the solo passages always took the hard-sell path. Her cadences did not so much slow down as expire.

Carrying the showbiz element even further, when the piano was silent for a purely orchestral episode, she mimed ecstasy, swaying back and forth, head raised to the heavens, eyes closed. (I loathe that kind of overt egoistic sham, which is all such behavior amounts to.) Her encore, Mussorgsky’s Gopak, was so squeezed and distorted that the end result was a model of vulgar playing.

Here’s a trivia question: How many symphonies did Rachmaninov write? Well, the answer can be three, four, five or six, depending on how you care to look at it. The standard numbering is, of course, three. But there is also his unnumbered choral symphony, The Bells, Op. 35. Then there is the one surviving movement of an early symphony in D minor, the so-called Youth Symphony, which brings the total to five. And finally, if numbers interest you, the Symphonic Dances counts as another symphony, one with too modest a title.

The orchestra played the three movements of the Symphonic Dances with tons of panache, as well as innate musicality — until the coda. Partly driven by Spivakov, the final half minute degenerated into mere din, the percussion being needlessly rowdy. Spivakov, usually so surefooted when setting tempos, lingered a bit too long during the slow episode of the finale. It made the entire movement sag into tedium. Things naturally brightened up in the Trepak, when everyone regained their composure.

(Heuwell Tircuit is a composer, performer, and writer who was chief writer for Gramophone Japan and for 21 years a music reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle. He wrote previously for Chicago's American and the Asahi Evening News.)


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-21-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 8
Post ID: 4043
Reply to: 4035
The NPoR’s recording “guality” on Delos label

It is interesting: in NY’s concert I picked the NPoR’s recording of Pathetique issued by DELOS DE-3379. I never seen this CD anywhere (it is too new – 2007 February) and it is not even listed in Delos catalog. If you were fool enough to miss the NPoR’s live play during their US tour then the CD would be a good illustration what NPoR could do. At least it was what I thought…

The CD was recorded by SVIP Studio in Moscow. The CD has a long list of the microphones (Neumann, Schoeps, Holophones and many CCMs), cables (Monster Prolink), preamps (many Milenia), mixing consoles (Euphonix System 5),  A/D converters (Prism) used. I read all this and had a feeling that it should be relay bad as my experience indicates that usually this type of  enumerations of recording equipment on the CD cover leads to very barbaric sound. It is not necessary the problem of the equipment but rather the human factor as the people who need to bravado with all this crap usually have very specific vision about Sound. Then they said on the cover that the recording was mixed not in the recording location but in the SVIP Studio. Furthermore the responsibility for the mixing was not the job of Spivakov the Conductor but by “Surround Mix Engineer” Tatiana Vinnitskay. Well, the hoodlums recorded the NPoR on their dozen channels and then some kind of moron-electricians decided how to mix the orchestra! I should be real crap I figured…

I’m not home now, and I did not play it on my home installation - I listed the CD only in my car. The sound on this CD is really foolish. First off all it is too good to be true but the CD has flipped right and left channels, unless Vladimir Spivakov pit his first violin section on right. There is another possibility that the morons who made my car switched the channels but it is height unlikely. I very seldom play nowadays CDs in my car but the FM does set in my car the correct location of right and left channel. Still, even the flipping the cannels is not as big deal as everything else, and this “everything else“ is truly horrible.

The kiddos from SVIP Studio desired to make the recording “effective”, at least in that way in which they understand it in their primitive mind of electricians. So, on the CD, when whole any of the whole NPoR section plays then it sound “straight” but when a lead of the section or any other lead plays its part then it suddenly begins to be artificially enunciated and overly accented. It sounds do boring and so mechanically-predicable that it is vertically impossible to listen the first movement. The NPoR very far from brutal accents and it strings section is very genital and soft. It is not the Ormandy’s  strings section but it in the way of getting there – very lucrative, very stimulation… and very fact form the “whichchchy” tone of BSO that I hate. The NPoR’s lead phrases are very “integrated” and not as absentminded as the SVIP Studio made it on their stupid CD.

I listed the CD twice and I still feel that it is a valuable CD to get a perspective of what NPoR’s could do. In the beginning of the Pathetique’s last movement there is nothing going on from the perspective of the morons-electricians in headphones. The celebrated Tchaikovsky's “Adagio lamentoso” with its violins wide and dark opening and with string/brass build up into fortissimo  is kind of the Bruckner style accordion-sound where the “Surround Mix Engineers” had no chance to show off themselves. Ironically but very much non-accidentally the beginning of the last movement is the best part on that CD what it truly demonstrates the tone of the NPoR orchestra...

Rgs, Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-22-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 9
Post ID: 4045
Reply to: 4036
Aren’t I just a lucky Pussy?

What the lucky Pussy I am!

I’m finishing with my current Ray Brook's client on Friday an was thinking to take off back to Boston as I realized that NPoR has a performance on Friday in The Performing Arts Center of Purchase, NY. When I asked my coworkers how far that Purchase-town from Ray Brook the told me that it is just down the road…

Well, to my great pressure the NPoR will be playing a different program in there:

Shostakovich: Festival Overture
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

Rgs, Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-22-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Michaelz
Posts 38
Joined on 03-01-2007

Post #: 10
Post ID: 4046
Reply to: 4045
Stalker
Make sure that the painist does not think that you are a stalker of hers!!
03-23-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 11
Post ID: 4048
Reply to: 4046
It turning out to be a good trip.

 Michaelz wrote:
Make sure that the painist does not think that you are a stalker of hers!!

Well, I did not mean to sound like this but can not resist replying: I said I was a lucky Pussy, not the pianist was.

Anyhow it was truly pleasant trip: working during the day and making some dough, having somebody paid off the expanses and at the evenings to catch some warhorses of the Russian symphonic repertoire.

The last night I went after the work to Philadelphia to see my 100-years old grandma. It could be a miserable long drive from NY, White Plane to Phyla, during a dreary rain but the NJ Classical Network in their SymphonyCast broadcasted the live-to-tape from the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts at Emory University, Atlanta the performance of Rotterdam Philharmonic lead by Valery Gergiev. So taking about the insult the injury of the Russian symphonic warhorses – the program was the Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 and Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5.

It was in a way an amassing Broadcast in a way: it was the absolutely the worst play I ever heard. The pianist Vladimir Feltsman: his Rach 3 and his encore Bach was both were absolutely laughable. The Shostakovich Fifth was not better. I was VERY surprised how the musical director of SymphonyCast allows the programs like this to be aired.

More Russian blockbusters? I passed NJ and was in NY when the SymphonyCast was over. I returned my radio to NY’s WQXR and caught the March 3 live-to-tape broadcast of NY Philharmonic with their Music Director Emeritus Kurt Masur playing the Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique”. Sure, to have two Pathétiques during one week it too much and the performance was not particularly good but what was interesting as is was very clearly difference between the sound of celebrated NY Philharmonic and the sound of National Philharmonic of Russia. The NY Philharmonic sound like a noise of musical instruments and nothing else (Though I do admit that they could play when they want)

So, I’m very enthusiastic about the finial concert of my week – the tonight NPoR play. The Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony one of my favorite symphonies and I would not miss it and particularly by the play of the NPoR. The Paganini Rhapsodyes… well it should be fun but I do not expect a whole lot. The work itself is in a way an affective pop work and Olga Kern does have a tendency for showy, cheep thrill play, particularly during loud passages. Martha Argerich frequently did the same – become overly exuberant with her truly tremendous pianistic capacity…. Talking about the “pianist ringing” and dealing with own ego… Anyhow, where Olga Kern was very good was during the very soft and very slow moments when she takes her time, holds very tasteful poses and actually deals with Sound instead of the banging effects… She is actually is VERY capable in those slow movements.

Oh, did I tell that she should stop to play the Yamaha craps and switch to Steinway? The Yamaha’s bass octave sounds like a 2 cylinder Volkswagen runs over your body – you feel hurt but do not really feel suffering....

Rgs, Romy the Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
03-23-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Michaelz
Posts 38
Joined on 03-01-2007

Post #: 12
Post ID: 4049
Reply to: 4048
Now I see why you prefer cat
That was a very enjoyable reply there!

I wonder how many concerts one has to attend in order to catch a good one.

About the loud passages:  it might not be the ego of the pianists.  It is very hard to play loud passages of big chords effortlessly,without resistance.  Too much effort made the sound stuffed, to fix this, they use even more effort, and it becomes a vicious cycle.  The left hand usually is less good than the right one.  I doubt that her lower octaves would sound dramatically different on a Steinway from a Yamaha.
03-24-2007 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,366
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 13
Post ID: 4059
Reply to: 4045
The Purchase disaster.
Well, to close the saga I need to inform that my visit of the NPoR concert in Purchase was a complete waste of time. I understand that NPoR rides across US and cashing in their sound among mostly ignorant US consumers. Sure, as in any professional activity this product – is juts commodity but… I, happens to be, am at the different side of fence…

So, in Purchase Performing Center I was sitting first movement at “interesting” location what I was able to see the pianist and the conductor very well. Spivakov during the Shostakovich’s Overture made some very cynic and very unpleasant gestures and frankly speaking I would prefer do not see it. The Orchestra sounded well though…

The Rachmaninoff’ Rhapsodyes were disastrous or even more then Rhapsodyes. I hardly understood what the hell they were doing. The Olga Kern’s piano was out of tune – I have no idea why they decided to proceed with the performance. Kern clearly was distracted with what was doing on and demonstrated the bitchiest play I even heard.  It was absolutely without any feelings. It was more like a scream “let this it be finished”….

For the second part I went up for other sit but the Tchaikovsky Fifth was very poor.  The all string sections were wonderful great played together but everything else was like from a different orchestra. Evan the strings: with this near flawless performance I really did not like what Spivakov did with them:  this articulation was very primitive and the expressions were very crude and not interesting. The NPoR still had that very nice  soft and rich tone but it sonic capacities was not used at all and the orchestra sounded as it was a first rehearsal with an awful guest conductor. I felt that the leads of the strings sections made up their people to play well but it was all that was good in Purchase…


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
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