Russian National Orchestra wows Wilmington audience

Stefan Jackiw, Russian National Orchestra

The Russian National Orchestra wowed classical music aficionados in Wilmington on Friday night when it made a stop at The Grand's Copeland Hall as part of its 25th anniversary world tour.

The concert was also a part of The Renaissance Concerts, a pilot program supported by Tatiana and Gerret Copeland to bring internationally acclaimed classical music artists to Wilmington. The inaugural event took place last December with a performance by the superstar trio of violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Evgeny Kissin and cellist Mischa Maisky.

The program featured an eclectic mix of the familiar, the not-so-familiar and the dramatic, including Alexander Glazunov's Prelude to the suite "From the Middle Ages" and orchestra Founder and Artistic Director Mikhail Pletnev's arrangement of Sergei Prokofiev's suite from "Romeo and Juliet."

Violin soloist Stefan Jackiw joined the orchestra in a performance of Felix Mendelssohn's ever popular Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64.

Opening the concert was the Prelude from Glazunov's suite "From the Middle Ages," a neglected masterpiece full of prime Russian romanticism. Karabits brought out the marvelous detail of the piece which conveys the image of two lovers high on a barren cliff, so lost in each other that they are oblivious to the storm-driven sea below. Glazunov's strength always lay in his ability to draw long, lyrical strokes from his instruments and the orchestra complied, creating a musical arc that rose from a deep bass-driven portent to a most amorous warmth.

The soloist was Stefan Jackiw, the young Massachusetts Wunderkind who made his professional debut, at the age of 12, in 1997 with the Boston Pops when director Keith Lockhart invited him to perform on opening night - he just had his Carnegie Hall debut on March 2.

Dressed in black from head to toe, he cut a stage presence as formidable as his talent. He tore into the impassioned first movement with the blistering intensity of a rock star, yet never lost command of his 1704 Ruggieri violin. The utter precision and rhythmic incisiveness of his playing were stunning. Refreshingly, Jackiw approached the sumptuous slow movement with an elegant poignancy. The fast finale delivered a daring mix of capriciousness and intensity, a combination Jackiw was never in danger of not pulling off.