Review: Russian National Orchestra Plays Borodin and Prokofiev

Stefan Jackiw, Russian National Orchestra
The New York Times

By James R. Oestreich

New Yorkers could be forgiven for wondering in recent weeks whether the great line of Russian maestros had been reduced to a lone survivor, as Valery Gergiev oversaw The Mariinsky at BAM, a 12-day festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, then led the Vienna Philharmonic in a weekend at Carnegie Hall. Carnegie provided an answer on Wednesday evening, presenting the Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev, a conductor of a different stripe.

The band was in fine shape on Wednesday, midway through the American leg of its 25th-anniversary international tour. The program, opening with Borodin’s “In the Steppes of Central Asia” and ending with Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite, was particularly well suited to show off a superb woodwind section, especially the oboist Olga Tomilova and the flutist Maxim Rubtsov.

In between came Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, with the stirring young Stefan Jackiw as soloist. Mr. Jackiw, in a program note, charmingly tells of having discovered this concerto in 1999, through the film “Analyze This,” starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal.


Whatever it takes. Mr. Jackiw has in any case made the work his own: not only the beautiful melodies but also the skittish passages in which the tunes seem to be morphing and turning themselves inside out. He rendered them all with seeming ease and remarkable purity of tone, qualities he carried into his encore, the Largo from Bach’s Unaccompanied Violin Sonata in C, which he shaped beautifully.

Read the full review here.