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Conductor Vedernikov and the Russian National Orchestra were equal partners in this magnificent performance of Bartok's swan song opus. Vedernikov's long experience as an opera conductor clearly pays dividends in his concerto collaborations. (He is Music Director and Chief Conductor of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater and former Music Director of the Stanislavsky Music Theater.) The silken Russian National strings captured the eerie gloom of the 'night music'. (This music has a 1940s film noire quality that places it very much in New York rather than Hungary.) Every subtle gradation of string tone matched Grimaud's glowing waterfall of tonal hues. In the finale Vedernikov's manic rhythmic propulsion drew every ounce of excitement from the music. His wind, brass, and percussion played with dizzying, kinetic brilliance. A great Bartók performance!

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 5 in E Minor Op 64 is thrice familiar orchestral fare, but there is nothing quite like Tchaikovsky played by a top rank Russian orchestra. Principal French horn Igor Makarov phrased his famous solo in the Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza with alluring romanticism. His wide vibrato had an authentic Russian sound. The wonderfully languid oboe tone of Andrey Rubtsov captured the music's tragic poignancy. In the first movement Andante-Allegro con anima, the violins (led by concertmaster Alexey Bruni) really gave their all to the waltz melody. They played with golden tone and a full, rich vibrato -- a string section filled with Heifetzs and Milsteins. The often discursive movement had a rhythmic tightness and drive that made the music sound fresh. Vedernikov understood the balletic quality of the Valse: Allegro moderato. One could see the dancers in the mind's eye. (Vedernikov must be a superb ballet conductor.) For once the Finale: Andante maestoso was not an overblown anticlimax but the real apotheosis of Tchaikovsky's musical argument. Vedernikov traced the agony and the ecstasy of this music with an unerring sense of rhythmic energy, dynamic contrast, and lyrical ebb and flow. The musicians responded with colorful, sensitive playing from every orchestral choir. The gorgeous sound of the cello section (under Principal Alexander Gotgelf) was exceptionally beautiful. Tchaikovsky symphonies are rarely performed this idiomatically!

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Copyright © 29 January 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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