The Mariinsky Orchestra Star Amid the Tchaikovsky Prize Winners

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Debussy, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rachmaninoff.Andrei Ionuț Ioniță (cello), Yulia Matochkina (mezzo soprano), Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar (baritone), Dmitry Masleev (piano), Mariinsky Orchestra/Valery Gergiev (conductor), Cadogan Hall, London. 26.10.2015 (LB)

Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Haydn – Cello Concerto No.1 in C major, Hob. VIIB/1
Tchaikovsky – Joan’s Aria from The Maid of Orleans (1879)
Tchaikovsky – Yeletsky’s Aria from The Queen of Spades (1890)
Wagner – Prelude from Lohengrin, Act 1 (1850)
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18

 Valery Gergiev, outgoing principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, is a demonically busy artist; he is currently director of the World Orchestra for Peace, music director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Orchestra, and chairman of the legendary Tchaikovsky competition. Last night, accompanied by the musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra, he brought the gold medal winners of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition to London’s Cadogan Hall, to showcase their talents.

He and the orchestra began proceedings with a performance of Debussy’ evocative Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, of which I was regrettably only able to hear the dying moments, thanks to London’s wretched infrastructure, which frustratingly saw me trapped in stationary traffic for the better part of an hour.

By the time the Romanian cellist Andrei Ionuț Ioniță walked out on stage to perform Haydn’s C major cello concerto I had fully recovered, and what a joy it was to hear string playing of such outstanding quality. At the tender age of twenty, Ioniță performs with a level of maturity that belies his years. His performance was technically beyond reproach, musically refined, and infused with an infectious spontaneity, especially in the spirited finale.

The quality of the orchestra’s contribution to the Haydn was really quite extraordinary; it fizzed, and they and Gergiev were alive to absolutely every subtle nuance. Such a dynamic and exquisitely integrated partnership was bound to excite the kind of rapturous reception it did from a packed Cadogan Hall, and Ioniță rewarded the audience with a thoughtfully articulated encore of the sarabande from Bach’s third suite for unaccompanied cello.

We were then treated to two Tchaikovsky arias, one for mezzo-soprano, and the other for baritone. The Russian mezzo-soprano Yulia Matochkina benefits from a formidable and commanding presence, a persuasive personality and a richly resonant voice that was perfectly suited to Joan’s aria from The Maid of Orleans.

Mongolian baritone Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar relished his all-too brief moment in the limelight, and by the time he had finished singing Yeletsky’s aria from The Queen of Spades, his enchanting voice and personality had mesmerised the audience, who were reluctant to let him go.

Gergiev was a sensitive and supportive accompanist, and the orchestra’s magnificently colourful and scrupulously accurate contribution was once again a critical component in the success of these two performances.

After the interval, and before pianist Dmitry Masleev was to join the orchestra for the final solo performance of the evening, Gergiev and the musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra gave us an intensely penetrating, and immensely satisfying performance of Wagner’s Prelude from Lohengrin, Act 1.

Masleev is yet another Russian sensation at the keyboard, and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto proved to be an appropriate vehicle for his musicianship and technical firepower. It was the sensational orchestral playing however that transformed the performance. This really was the most idiomatic Rachmaninoff I have ever been privileged to hear; powerful, dramatic, tender, evocative, thought provoking and, in truth, a revelation.

Masleev’s encore of Tchaikovsky’s Scène Dansante op.72 brought proceedings to an energetic and stirring conclusion.

In a concert intended as an exhibition of individual artistic success, the true stars of the show were the musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra, who embody a level of excellence and stunning musicianship that is all too rare nowadays. If the epithet ‘super-orchestra’ were ever to be used, then the Mariinsky Orchestra would indisputably be deserving of this exceptional accolade.

Leon Bosch.


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