Moscow orchestra shines in all-Russian program

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
Palm Beach Daily News

Russian-American political relations have not been very cordial lately, but American audiences still love a good Russian orchestra.
The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra did not disappoint as it appeared as part of the Kravis Center’s Regional Arts Series on Wednesday afternoon with an all-Russian program, featuring pianist Dmitry Masleev.

The program began with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s seldom-heard tone poem Utyos (The Rock), Op. 7. This is a splendid early work by the composer that deserves more performances. Rachmaninoff dedicated the piece to his teacher, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, whose influence is keenly heard in the colorful wind writing and lush string sounds.

The only piece on the program that was familiar to most of the audience was Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, admirably executed by Masleev. Masleev handled all the virtuosic fireworks as well as one would expect from the 2015 winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, but he also carried all the varying moods of the work with breathtaking mastery.

The pianist obliged the enthusiastic applause with a lovey encore of Elegy, from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Suite No. 3 from his ballet music to The Human Comedy.

The program concluded with Alexander Scriabin’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 29, another work not frequently heard in the United States. The symphony has been popular in Russia since its premier in 1902, but it has been slow to gain acceptance abroad.

The symphony is set in five movements, but the andante third movement dominates the work. Scriabin’s influences are clear as one hears echoes of Tchaikovsky and even Gustav Mahler. It is a complex work with motives forming and carrying on into subsequent movements, but the work does not benefit from easily perceptible tunes, which could draw the listener to its inner riches.

Scriabin’s symphony also lacks a sense of the “inexorable.” His contemporaries, Mahler and Jean Sibelius, were masters at working with dense material and creating a sense that the grand finale was inevitable. Scriabin has a grand, brassy march, but it seems to appear out of nowhere and is reprised at least one too many times. Still, the orchestra’s performance of the work is likely the finest that an American audience will hear.
Read the rest of the review here