Mariinsky Orchestra in Gateshead

Friday 12 May 2006
Mussorgsky orch. Shostakovich
Khovanshchina – Prelude
Symphony No.7 in C sharp minor, Op.131
Symphony No.5 in D minor, Op.47

Saturday 13 May 2006
Violin Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.63
Symphony No.8 in C minor, Op.65

Vadim Repin (violin)

Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre (Kirov Opera)
Valery Gergiev

Reviewed by: Andrew Toovey

Reviewed: 13 May, 2006
Venue: Hall One, The Sage Gateshead

The Prelude to Mussorgsky’s “Khovanshchina” was the perfect start to a series of four concerts (finishing on the 18th) by the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, and, for the writer, an excellent introduction to the excellent acoustic of Hall One in the recently opened The Sage Gateshead. Every detail is clearly heard, and in the Mussorgsky, among the many subtle features, was some of the most delicate violin tremolo I have heard in a long time. Each musician seemed to have a slightly different tremolo speed and vibrato, which blended into a bright sheen in this hall. The clarinet solo, almost inaudible at its beginning, also reminded that this orchestra deftly handles the fullest range of gestures – here in an acoustic that can be counted among the best.

The last of Prokofiev’s symphonies may not be one of his greatest achievements. Commissioned for The Children’s Radio Division of the Moscow broadcasting service, its accessibility is perhaps understandable. There are certainly moments when the finer elements of Prokofiev’s power are revealed, and the finale has its share of fun and frolics. Valery Gergiev opted for upbeat and optimistic second ending (suggested by the composer’s conductor-friend Samuil Samosud) was used with predictable results.

The ‘WOW’ factor kicked in with the Shostakovich. The tremendous dramatic range of this symphony was fully captured. The Largo third movement had such emotional density that it stripped away the flesh and rubbed at the very bone of this heartrendingly intense procession. Gergiev needs no score to check his thoughts in this work, every detail grafted to his soul and his passion ignites the Mariinsky Orchestra to react to every tiny direction of his hands.

The second concert was without an ‘overture’, and it felt odd to go straight into the concerto. I have heard Vadim Repin on many occasions, usually finding him technically perfect if rather cool and detached. So it was a delight to find him playing with such spirit, gusto and enjoyment, Repin, Gergiev and the orchestra displaying a warmly reciprocated personal and musical relationships in Prokofiev’s fine violin concerto, one brimming with inventive orchestral coloring, Gergiev, on occasions, dancing his way through the work in this emotionally passionate performance.

Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, if a more inward piece than its ‘Leningrad’ predecessor, is also dramatic and ecstatic, qualities fully embodied in this performance. A shame, though, the quiet ending of this symphony and its attendant silence was rudely interrupted by a member of the audience immediately and vigorously clapping; fortunately no-one joined this person, and Gergiev held the moment for at least thirty seconds.

Writing this from a London perspective, a trip to the North of England is a very worthwhile experience – The Angel of the North, the Laing Art Gallery (its present exhibition of includes Rembrandt, Kossof, Bacon and Turner) and, for music the fabulous acoustic of The Sage Gateshead.

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