Alexander Sladkovsky opens his Moscow subscription series with an overwhelming Mahler Fifth

16/11/2019

Russian FederationRussian Federation R. Strauss, Mahler: Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra, Anastasia Kalagina (soprano) /Alexander Sladkovsky (conductor), Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow, 11.11.2019. (GT)

Alexander Sladkovsky (c) Ivan Andreev

R. StraussDeath and Transfiguration Op.24, Four Last Songs Op. posth.

Mahler – Symphony No.5

This concert opened the second subscription series presented by this outstanding orchestra from Kazan – a considerable honour and a sign of the regard with which these musicians are held by the capital’s concert-going public. This orchestra certainly has a ‘wow’ factor both in its standards of performance and its exciting repertoire wherever it travels. Alexander Sladkovsky already has his supporters and devotees in Moscow – a city that boasts some of the finest virtuoso orchestras in Russia.

This concert is remarkable in programming two late romantic composers, a trend which will be continued in their next Moscow concert which will feature Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer.  In a glowing performance of Death and Transfiguration, a magical moment developed with the high strings – playing as if awakening under gentle gasps of emotion – backed by fine playing from the woodwind. There was stunning virtuosity from the solo violin of Alina Yakonina. Sladkovsky showed impeccable control of the crescendos and diminuendos and wonderfully controlled the development to the final culmination – a wonderful opening for the evening’s music-making.

Anastasia Kalagina is a member of the Mariinsky Opera and is a prize-winner of several major song competitions both in Russia and internationally. Kalagina’s father was an assistant conductor with the Kazan ensemble and conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre for many years. In the Strauss songs, once again the orchestra revealed how accomplished they are in offering finely poised accompaniment; their gloriously velvety strings embellishing the singing with a refined, almost Viennese lustre. In the second Hesse setting; ‘September’, Kalagina was glorious in her articulation and empathy with the text. In ‘Beim Schlafengehen’, a beautiful violin solo sensitively assisted the soprano’s intimate tessitura, offering a magical interpretation. In the final ‘Im Abendrot’, following the stormy opening, there was some delightful flute playing, aptly supporting Kalagina’s beautiful intonation. It was after her marvellously judged ‘Ist dies etwas Tod?’ that this performance was brought to a touching close by the seven-note quotation from the composer’s Death and Transfiguration. Kalagina is a singer whom we will be hearing more of in the coming years.

The TNSO’s previous performances of Mahler’s Sixth and Eighth Symphonies here meant that this interpretation of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony was eagerly awaited by the Moscow public. It was with a barely perceptible downbeat that the conductor introduced the solo trumpet – superbly enacted by Denis Petrov and followed immediately by the immensely dramatic entry of the orchestra. There was a uniformity of sound across the whole ensemble, and after the secondary weeping theme, the ever so soft roll on the timpani introduced the return of the funeral march and there was dramatic attack by the strings – one of the most stunning moments in the great opening movement. The following Sturmisch bewegt produced some of the most exciting playing I have heard by this orchestra. Here there was great virtuosity, a unity of ideas and great drama, matched with excitement from the TNSO. Remarkably Sladkovsky has an acute feeling for the Mahlerian phrasing and translucent orchestral textures permitting greater depth to the playing. In the Scherzo, there was some scintillatingly beautiful cello playing, followed by magically eloquent clarinet from Artur Muchamedzhin – again almost perfection – with the scintillating charming waltzes and Ländler in true Viennese style. Certainly, Sladkovsky has the sense for Mahler performance – a complete understanding of the structure, bringing out all the beauty of the music but also showing the depth of the tragedy.

The beauty of the strings and the harp in the Adagietto brought a fragile, intimate intensity avoiding the sentimentality of other performances. Everything was as near perfect as one could imagine with the timing for this masterly piece coming in at ten minutes. In the Rondo finale, it was clear that we were hearing a world-class orchestra with a conductor of the highest standards: there was impassioned playing that had an amazing degree of unity and one voice. The build up to the final climax was earth shattering in its drama and excitement.

Gregor Tassie

Comments

Comments

  1. Rray Madden says:

    No comment on horn solos in the Scherzo?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, you right, the horn solos were magical, but if I mentioned everything in this performance, it would have made a very long read. Russian orchestras do not always play western repertoire well in the brass sections, but here Sladkovsky has trained the brass marvellously well without the errors in phrasing which occurs in other Russian orchestras.

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Southbank Centre __________________________________
  • NEW! Snape Maltings – January to April 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month