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Thrilling Performance

The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra visits Nottingham,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


A Russian orchestra playing Russian music is usually a sure-fire winner, and so it was on this occasion [Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, UK, 2 February 2007]. With an elegant account of Glazunov's Concert Waltz no 1 as a curtain-raiser, the MSSO was joined by Alexander Kobrin for Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. His exuberant playing combined attention to detail with an ability to take the long view. Particularly impressive was the way he maintained the music's momentum through the various tempo changes in the first movement. In the second movement, he made variation two more athletic, less heavily galumphing, than many performances I've heard, and there was a magical stillness in No 3. The orchestral playing matched him for flair and panache, and together they made the central climax of the third movement blossom magically.

The second half began with just about the most ferocious performance of Sibelius's Finlandia I've heard. It wasn't just a matter of speed, though it was unusually brisk. The players really dug into the notes with tremendous power and energy.

Musorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, in the Ravel orchestration, got similar high-voltage treatment. Conductor Pavel Kogan (son of the violinist Leonid Kogan) kept The Old Castle moving nicely; Limoges and The Hut on Chicken's Legs were both extremely fast, with a fine sense of commotion in the one and scary energy in the other. Balance was occasionally a problem with the brass allowed to dominate; overall, though it was a thrilling performance.

But then there's the vexed question of encores. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, this was one occasion when I positively didn't want one. We had three.

Copyright © 13 February 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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