Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk


Symphony Hall
by Christopher Morley *****
Memory plays tricks, but I'm sure I reviewed an orchestra from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk playing here 28 years ago, when Symphony Hall first opened. Whatever the case, the Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk is young and fresh, and the combination of youthful players and a veteran conductor, Thomas Sanderling (whose father Kurt conducted such epic Shostakovich here) made for an absorbing exploration of well-known Russian repertoire -- and how they relished the capacity of Symphony Hall to deliver sonic glories!
Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet was naturally built, delicate in dynamics, and with a general sense of cool restraint from which the big moments (not least the piercing trumpet ascent at the height of the warring fugato) emerged spectacularly.
Another Romeo and Juliet, Prokofiev's ballet, is evoked in that composer's Second Violin Concerto, and here soloist Alexander Sitkovetsky continued the current of understatement, blending his tone into the texture of the orchestra whilst still coaxing his instrument to sing now throatily, now sweetly, and always in narrative mode.
There was wonderful orchestral collaboration here, not least from the bassoon amidst the slow movement's filigree, and the pearly bass drum propelling the finale to its manic conclusion.
Sitkovetsky dedicated his Bach encore to the memory of those killed in the Manchester Arena atrocity exactly two years ago, and then we embarked on two vibrant orchestral showpieces.
Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, always a delight to hear, was idiomatically Iberian in delivery, brilliant in its showcasing of orchestral soloists, not least concertmaster Valeriy Karchagin, and paving the way for a stunning Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition.
Who needs any of the other dozen-plus orchestrations when that by Ravel says it all? It grants opportunities to the players (all triumphantly taken here) whilst conveying all the piano original's aspirations to a lapping-up public.
Symphony Hall has heard this piece so often, but Sanderling's reading blew off the cobwebs. And the encore, the Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, was simply the icing on the evening's glorious cake.
Christopher Morley

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