Review: Russian National Orchestra

04.01.19
Russian National Orchestra
New Criterion

The audience was on its feet after the Rachmaninoff concerto... there was Pletnevian power in it (and Rachmaninoff's, too). Moreover, we were applauding a man who represents a great tradition, the tradition of Russian piano playing... [The encore] was a Scarlatti sonata... It was classic Pletnev: wizardly, beguiling, bewitching. He stretched the rhythms to the limits, but not beyond. He was imaginative but respectful. He employed a number of colors. There was a whole musical world within this little piece. Pletnev makes you realize what a piano can do, in the right hands. No one else can play Scarlatti like this -- equally well, maybe, but not in the same fashion. Horowitz, Haskil, and the rest of the great Scarlatti players would have rubbed their eyes... It was scarcely believable.

After intermission, the RNO played Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances... The orchestra was smooth, adhering to the musical line. The unison playing in the strings was exemplary, with those strings singing as one. Plus, the RNO has some great principals, in the woodwind section, not least. The second dance, the waltz, had its desired spookiness. In all three, Kirill Karabits showed himself a fine leader.

The audience... still wanted more. They clapped and clapped. A New York audience, on a weeknight especially? Usually, they are racing to the exits. A performer can barely make it off the stage after the first curtain call... Finally, in response to popular demand, the orchestra played a third encore...
 
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