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Poetic Touches

The Russian State Symphony Orchestra
plays Musorgsky, Prokofiev and Rakhmaninov,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Rimsky-Korsakov may have tried to tone down the wilder excesses of his colleague Musorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain, but even in his version it's a remarkably vivid score. The Russian State Symphony Orchestra's performance with conductor Mark Gorenstein (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 14 May 2008) not only brought the witchery to brilliantly flamboyant life but also found an extraordinary degree of tranquillity in the final passage.

Sergey Girshenko was the soloist in Prokofiev's 2nd Violin Concerto. Rhythms often had a nicely balletic feel, but the performance tended to focus on the music's lyrical character at the expense of its spikier aspects. Girshenko's playing was flawless and expressive, but his rather small tone reinforced a one-sided view of the work which didn't really do it justice.

After the interval Rakhmaninov's 2nd Symphony received a performance generally full of vitality and beautiful poetic touches -- the ravishing account of the third movement solo clarinet theme deserves particular mention.

Non-observance of the first movement repeat unbalanced the structure, and there was a tendency to lose momentum in the scherzo's broad second theme, although the final pay-off was beautifully judged. The finale could have been a touch more reckless, but the build-up over the chiming scale patterns towards the end -- one of Rakhmaninov's most brilliantly imagined passages -- was genuinely impressive, and the excitement was maintained to the end.

Copyright © 24 May 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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