Russian Federation ‘Stars on Baikal’ Festival  – Verdi, Cilea, Puccini, Saint-Saens, De Curtis, Gershwin, and Tchaikovsky: Hibla Gerzmava (soprano), Denis Matsuev (piano), Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra / Alexander Sladkovsky (conductor) Zagursky Musical Theatre, Irkutsk, 12.9.2018. (GT)
Verdi – Overture La forza del destino and aria ‘Pace, Pace’
Verdi – Overture Nabucco
Cilea – Adriana Lecouvreur aria ‘lo son l’umile ancella’
Puccini – Intermezzo from Le Villi
Puccini – La bohème aria ‘Quando m’en vo’ soletta’
Saint-Saens – Prelude to Act III Samson et Dalila
De Curtis – Aria ‘Ti voglio tanto bene’
Gershwin – Porgy and Bess aria ‘Summertime’
Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, op.23
The closing concert of the 13th Musical Festival mentored by Denis Matsuev was given by Sladkovsky’s Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra with the distinguished Abkhazian soprano Hibla Gerzmava heading a first half of mostly Italian arias and topped off by Tchaikovsky’s most popular concerto with Matsuev himself closing the festival.
Gerzmava has a beautiful velvety soprano creamy on top and a real cutting edge and is among the most sought-after singers in Italian and French opera. However, with the opening chords of the overture to The Force of Destiny, the orchestra showed how skilled they are in the high drama and tension, notably with fine contributions from flute, clarinet and oboe in the desperately tragic idea from Nabucco on oboe of Andrey Shubin and picked up on the violins. Sladkovsky showed how skilled an accompanist he is in opera, setting up for an exciting evening. In her aria ‘Pace, pace’ the Abkhazian soprano was forebodingly tragic in her voice rising dramatically, but still not in her best form here it would seem, that soon changed with her aria from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, before which we heard another overture from Nabucco in which the Tatar musicians opened up with their tremendous brass department thrillingly, and the wonderful sotte voce idea expressed by the oboe and heard fully in the great chorus ‘Va Pensiero’. Now in her best voice Gerzmava expressed deeply felt sensitivity in the Cilea aria and assisted by Alina Yakonina – the first violin in her solo passage. Once more the orchestra gave us the Intermezzo from La Villi, wholly in character with Italian harmonies. The most successful aria for me from Gerzmava was from La bohème in which the soprano gave a wonderful account of the tragic heroine. Once again, the orchestra displayed their brilliance with the prelude to Act III of Samson et Dalila, again, the oboe was marvellous in evoking the dark exotic colours, and assisted by the flute of Venera Porfirieva, special mention must be made of the glorious solo on trumpet by Denis Petrov. Neapolitan colours were to the fore with Gerzmava’s aria from De Curtis ‘Ti voglio tanto bene’ bringing the Italian arias to a close before we were serenaded by Gershwin’s ever popular ‘Summertime’. At the close, the Abkhazian singer sang a solo song a capella of an Abkhazian folk song.
In Tchaikovsky’s ever popular concerto, it did seem at first as if the Steinway might have needed to be tuned properly: however, the concerto opened on thunderous chords from the brass and one must mention the fine clarinets, and flute, with its rather child-like melody, picked up by other woodwinds, in Matsuev’s first cadenza, and with the entry of the woodwind, it was as if a fresh page was opened, and the theme gradually developed to a swift climax. Matsuev played powerfully in his second cadenza, dramatically showing the strength of his will matched by splendid lyricism. In the andante, the ever so gentle theme on strings was introduced by the solo flute, invoking a feeling of fantasy played out in a pastoral summer meadow. With the finale, the opening exciting passage was like a troika driven by horses through the Russian forests at great speed, and the swirling wintry snow. Throughout there was superb accompaniment by Sladkovsky and his musicians, in the closing climax, there was great momentous celebration! No encore from Matsuev, perhaps he is tired after such a major festival, but the orchestra did come up with a reprise of Alexander Tchaikovsky’s Stan Tamerlane piece, a glorious close to the festival.
Photos: Yevgeni Yevtukhov