Now that the RNO Festival is behind us, it can be said: it was a beautiful gift to audiences at the beginning of a new musical season. Particularly impressive were two performances... the first night’s concert of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 8 and compositions by Robert Schumann, and the Verdi Gala that closed the festival... Mikhail Pletnev’s rare appearances at the piano are events... His Mozart is crystalline, transparent and touching... And the [festival’s] final touch was powerful and impressive: Verdi with Lyudmila Monastyrskaya. A perfect union. The festival is over and has confirmed for the umpteenth time: the endeavors of the Russian National Orchestra and its leader Mikhail Pletnev are fruitful and interesting. The outlook for one of the country’s finest symphonic collectives is optimistic and promising.
...It was the orchestra, led by Alberto Zedda, that was the best and main character this evening. It is rare, very rare, to hear such sounds from string instruments.
Mikhail Pletnev revealed the deep, pantheistic beauty of Rimsky-Korsakov’s music, evoking from the score multiple layers of sound: the Gogolian mysticism of drowned Ukrainian peasants – in the eerie vibratos of the strings and the cold flush of the harp; the pagan motifs – in the sharp staccatos of the mermaid’s games; the magic of Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral colors; the absurd humor of the mayor’s domestic scenes to the tune of a polonaise or a march... Pletnev turned the score of May Night into a rich, living fabric, like a fairytale magic carpet, with all the voices sounding at once.
The orchestra, led by Mikhail Pletnev, fully lived up to expectations. The music, rich in landscape imagery and seasoned with spicy characters, poured out in a carefree cantolena, the swashbuckling Cossack mirth painted in rich folkloric strokes. Yet the most exciting moments were when the music seemed to be filling the role of accompanist to the singers in their famous solos. In Hanna’s ariosa a violin and flute duet delicately entwined. In Levko’s scene opening the third act, a French horn quietly echoed. Pensive piano chords were supported by the harp as the melody flowed for “Oh you, moon.” The exacting execution and measured acoustic balance created by the conductor, musicians and singers provided for complete immersion in Rimsky-Korsakov’s picturesque music.
Verdi’s grandiose theater, presented at the close of the RNO festival, was one of its most thrilling events... Mikhail Pletnev created a program with taste, performing the overtures and some little-played ballet scenes from Don Carlos, Othello, and Aida... And Ludmila Monastyrskaya’s passion raged to overflowing: frenzy, temperment, love, spiritual darkness. From the very first notes, it was clear that this singer’s voice was exceptional, rich both in color and depth, poetic in its power.
Monastyrskaya’s voice easily filled the hall with a youthful, lush, rounded sound. It was probably even audible outside, where the television vans were lined up, yet too it was distinguished by a softness, by a delight in nuance, crescendos, and sudden contrasts. Pletnev and the orchestra were in top form both as accompanist and in the orchestral pieces.
Pletnev never has a problem crafting a conductor’s interpretation. Legends abound of his ability to master a score having barely read it through, and he selects the repertoire that is most interesting to him as an interpreter... This time the musician chose superb instrumental works from Verdi operas and performed them marvelously...
"...The [closing evening’s concert] was a significant artistic event, crowning the series of concerts in this year’s festival. The hall was full, the audience was satisfied, and radio and television, which recorded and will broadcast this concert, will significantly increase its audience.”
The RNO’s Tancredi sounded natural, convincingly clear, light. The ethereal sound, the light inclusion of the choir, never bellowing at forte, the regulated tempo – not giving in to the temptations of ‘extreme’ speed, the absolutely transparent fabric of sound – breathing, flowing... it was the work of a master. The same goes for Zedda’s gestures: subdued, short, concentrated, barely penetrating into the orchestra.... It was a true Rossini bel canto.
News of Culture
Tchaikovsky Hall was filled to bursting. The audience repeatedly interrupted the performance, applauding the singers and the conductor.
Listening to the sounds of this magnificent orchestral-choir union, it was difficult to rid oneself of the ridiculous yet obsessive thought that the maestro-conductor was “an old friend of Rossini,” that seemingly “he lived in the same era as him”! This can only perhaps be explained by the inexplicable magic of the Rossini-fied orchestra of Alberto Zedda and the staggeringly expressive transparency of the sound he was able to obtain from the [Victor Popov Academic Choir]...
Alberto Zedda's supreme mastery is the balance of sound between the soloists and the orchestra... And the generally enchanting feeling left by the great maestro’s work will be long remembered.
Mikhail Pletnev is defined by his serenity and aloofness, with no manner of unnecessary excitement, yet his playing whisks you away like a splinter on the wind, astonishing you with a clarity and perfection that is almost mathematical.
Pletnev conducted and played, as always astonishing with the impossible beauty of his music... From the first notes there was the familiar sound of the RNO, which cannot be mistaken with any other orchestra – the silvery cantilena of the strings, the soft voice of the woodwinds, the trademark combination of caution and decisiveness in the phrasing....
What They’re Saying
"I saw the greatest orchestra in the world play Friday night. If you think that's hyperbole, ask anyone who was in Yardley Hall that night. The Russian National Orchestra is the Rolls-Royce of orchestras, no ordinary ensemble."