Each year the festival program becomes more powerful and more varied… The RNO ‘brand’ in the first (and the second) place is associated with quality performances of classical music, which above all means outstanding (deep, broad, philosophical) interpretations of our classical heritage… The orchestra counter-posed Sarah Chang’s vigorous, no-holds barred playing with accompaniment that was finely-carved, translucent and at times almost ghostly, diffuse, dissipated, yet without losing either credibility or strength… And so it all came together… the Great Hall of the Conservatory – which after its renovation feels like the cozy old school, rain in Moscow, an orchestra at the peak of its prime and playing at full strength, the start of the philharmonic season… all of this is now firmly associated (one quickly gets used to something good) with the RNO’s autumn festival…
Tchaikovsky’s Manfred is the RNO’s featured production… From the first notes – the grim woodwinds interrupted by the strings quivering like balls of nerves – up through the triumphal coda, each and every time this orchestra’s performance with Pletnev at the podium sounds like a hymn to music.
Pletnev once again confirmed his reputation as an extremely profound interpreter of Tchaikovsky.
The musical performance… was at the highest level. The orchestra’s playing impressed with its expressiveness and its emotional effect.
The opening to Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony was played with a sense of precise cohesion, with a wonderful play of light and shadow, with shimmering harps and loud tutti, which the Conservatory’s Great Hall has been pining for throughout its year of renovation.
Moscow concert life of late has been rich in Italian bel canto… yet even against this thriving backdrop, tenor Laurence Brownlee and soprano Sarah Coburn succeeded in turning their own bel canto evening into practically a sensation… The orchestra succeeded in expressing itself quite favorably, in particular the French horn solo in Juliette’s aria and the flute solo in the insanity scene.
On the final day of the festival, Mikhail Pletnev returned to the conductor’s podium, which longed for him during all those days when there were so many other genres, styles, formats and types of art… and everything fell into place: this is Pletnev’s festival… The great music resounded with fullness of feeling, with such a range of colors and with such quality of singing and playing, it was as if it had been born anew.
The orchestra was a sensitive partner for the performers… the orchestra’s soloists truly supported the singer. The French horn solo by Igor Makarov at the beginning of Juliette’s aria was not only very beautiful, it created the requisite atmosphere and mood for the heroine’s entire aria. The duet of flutist Maxim Rubtsov and Luccini-Coburn was remarkably harmonious and bewitching.
The combination of ‘algebraic regulation’ in the collective’s performance style with the temperamental worldview of the Italian maestro [Sabbatini], conducting his ‘native’ repertoire, yielded abundant results every time: the orchestra literally stepped into a tarantella whirlwind, then shined with the fine lines of Bellini’s exquisitely captivating music, then blossomed into the harmonies of the later comic opera symphonicism of Donizetti....
"To hear the Requiem at the RNO Festival and die... Sometimes music can be so full of soul and songs of the heart that one is involuntarily drawn to such philosophizing... Such was my emotional experience in response to Verdi’s Requiem at the close of the RNO’s 3rd Grand Festival.
The concert was a huge success. The hall was full, and the audience warmly received Kazarova, who demonstrated outstanding vocal mastery. The range of her voice is huge, her nuancing precise, her coloratura perfect... The RNO soloists were at their peak. Concertmaster Alexei Bruni (violin), Vitaly Nazarov (oboe), Konstantin Yefimov (flute) and Alexei Bogorad (clarinet) were precise in their solos...
The festival ended with two top-notch concerts. It is difficult to say which offered their audiences a better experience: each was so full and rich, almost like Pushkin, divinely beautiful, inspired...
“The [Brownlee and Coburn] concert was extremely successful and in and of itself was a huge gift to Moscow’s lovers of great singing: programs like this, at this level of quality, quite frankly, do not often occur in Moscow.
“The Requiem performed by the RNO under the baton of its artistic director sounded remarkably fresh, sincere and heartfelt... The connection between the maestro and his team was simply incredible – and it gave birth to truly great music. One wanted to drown in this ocean of perfection.
“The Third RNO Festival is over. And it ended with a magnificent climax. This holiday for Moscow music lovers – a weeklong festival at the very beginning of the concert/theatrical season – succeeded. Let us give thanks for the maestro’s great artistry and that of his orchestra, and hope for no less of a revelation at the Fourth Festival next year.
…The mastery and talent of Vesselina Kazarova, her powerful persona, her stylistic precision, was the peak of performance culture. As was the presence within the orchestra of superb musicians. In the first instance, this is oboist Vitaly Nazarov, flautist Konstantin Yefimov and clarinetist Alexei Bogorad. Their solos in the overtures and during the singer’s arias were true gems, extremely inspired, pure of tone…
What They’re Saying
"To present American and Russian musicians performing and teaching together at Festival Napa Valley...is precisely the kind of effort that sustains vital cultural links...at a critical time for both societies. [This] resonates with the public [and] is meaningful for the musician participants...Cultural diplomacy and music offer alternatives to contention and sustain important linkages between our societies for the long run...Now more than ever we need viable citizen-to-citizen points of contact and dialogue."
James F. Collins (Ambassador Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace