Romance for viola and orchestra, Op.85 Shostakovich
Festival Overture, Op.96 Tchaikovsky
Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, Op.23 (first movement)
Pique Dame Ya vas lyublyu bezmerno
Swan Lake (excerpts)
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36 Verdi
Don Carlos O Carlo, ascolta
Yuri Bashmet (viola)
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone)
Evgeny Kissin (piano)
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuri Temirkanov
St Petersburg Philharmonic Gala Concert - 31 May
Friday, May 31, 2002 Royal Festival Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Gala concerts are usually bitty in programming and studded with soloists. This one was true to form until Olga Borodina and Maxim Vengerov withdrew. Five stars seemed overkill, so losing two and adding Tchaikovskys Fourth Symphony proved more satisfying. The remaining advertised music excepting Liadovs Op.49 Polonaise was shoe-horned into a 90-minute first half, leaving the Orchestra, the concerts beneficiary, the stage for Tchaikovskys fate-tinged symphony, which Yuri Temirkanov conducted urgently enough to suggest he was aiming for the same train as me curiously satisfying when you want to get home!
Allowing that he skated over aspects, one of Tchaikovskys supreme masterpieces was thrillingly played, Temirkanov avoiding the impatience marring the Swan Lake selections especially the brusque, angular Waltz if not the whirling Czardas and the virtual segue from first to second movements worked well. The pizzicato Scherzo was delightfully light-footed and pianissimo, while the Finale romped to the finishing post. The Orchestra, in top form throughout the evening, which began with exuberant, pinpoint Shostakovich, displayed virtuosity, polish and inimitable Slavonic intensity through the woodwinds vibrancy and strings depth of tone (violins antiphonal with left-positioned double basses superb in sustaining-power and articulacy). The brass is less brazen than in Mravinskys time (as the Leningrad Philharmonic).
Earlier, Yuri Bashmets suspect intonation dulled Bruchs lovely Romance, rescued by the Orchestras bloom, then Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a tad hammy in Verdi (flute and trumpet solos open-hearted and individual), brought dignity to Prince Yeletsky, and Evgeny Kissin won a long ovation for what? Rippling arpeggios and some integrally quiet responses to orchestral dialogue were but a few moments when he broke free from pre-planning. His technique may be patrician but his touch is forced and percussive, the tone hard. An ardent Scriabin Prelude (Op.8/12) made amends.
Sir Peter Ustinov, conceived in St Petersburg, was on hand with typically witty anecdotes, and there were two encores Death of Tybalt from Prokofievs Romeo and Juliet (shorn of the introduction needing an orchestral piano!) and a moving Nimrod from Elgars Enigma Variations. Passion, sensitivity, stamina, authority and character the St Petersburg Philharmonic left a positive, memorable impression.