Pianist wows in pairing with more of Russia's best

Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Passion.

The word commonly connotes emotions of affection, desire and love. But there is also a deeper, more deliberate meaning of passion, namely an unfettered, undeniable devotion to nurture, cultivate and cherish a person, an object, an idea or a discipline over time.

It is the latter form of fervor that Russian piano virtuoso Olga Kern and the highly regarded Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra brought to Gates Concert Hall on Tuesday in collective performances of highest artistic merit.

While Kern has on previous occasions charmed and impressed local audiences, her appearance with the lesser known Moscow Virtuosi surely strengthened her fan base here.

Dressed in a shimmering black gown, she sailed easily through Franz Joseph Haydn's pleasing, but unremarkable, Piano Concerto in D Major — a mere warm-up to Dmitri Shostakovich's fun and furious Concerto No. 1 in C minor for piano, trumpet and strings.

Kern re-emerged after intermission in a fetching blue gown, leading the charge through Shostakovich's thorny passages with impossible clarity and confidence, compelling full attention while young trumpeter Kirill Soldatov added color and dimension to the bold, theatrical work.

Passion again took center stage when accordion player Nikita Vlasov seductively conveyed the ardor, excitement and rhythmic nuance of a pair of tangos from Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla.

Vlasov — his long, flowing locks and overall striking presence Russia's answer to Don Juan — showed just the right balance of improvisation and restraint to bear the composer's fluid, whimsical narratives.

Led by its extraordinarily composed and artistically astute co-founder, Vladimir Spivakov, the Moscow Virtuosi is made up of some 30 top-ranking soloists and former principal chairs of Russian orchestra — in other words, an assembly of terrific talent that rendered a sense of refinement to every corner of the evening, including a wonderfully light reading of Friedrich Gulda's palette-cleansing "Aria."

Also on the program was Arnold Schoenberg's familiar string sextet, "Verklärte Nacht" (Transfigured Night). In the harmonically dense one-movement work — inspired by Richard Dehmel's poetic reflection on a couple walking together in the moonlight — the orchestra evoked the unflagging intensity of the sometimes tension and conflict, and ultimately generous understanding, between true lovers.

Closing the delightful, well-paced program with flair and finesse, Spivakov led the ensemble in a light, breezy reading of Mozart's brief "Allegro."

By Sabine Kortels
Special to The Denver Post








 
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