A Really Cheap Seat
Audrey Chen @ Issue Project Room

The Russians are Coming

Dsc03555Full house at Avery Fisher on Tuesday night to see the Russian National Orchestra with their exciting young Guest Conductor, Vladimir Jurowski. The RNO was founded in 1990 by pianist/conductor Mikhail Pletnev, and is the first Russian orchestra to operate independently of the government, with their funding coming primarily from private contributions. They are mostly a young ensemble, and they played with typical Russian flair and brio. (As far as I can tell, every member hails from Russia, a relative rarity in today's international orchestra scene.)

After Stravinsky's early Scherzo Fantastique, they played Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, with Greek soloist Leonidas Kavakos. Personally, I would have preferred to hear something other than this overplayed warhorse - say, one of the Shostakovich or Prokofiev concerti - but the crowd ate it up, shouting and screaming their approval until Kavakos finally consented to an encore (from Eugene Ysaye's Sonata No. 2). No matter how familiar the Tchaikovsky becomes, people always seem to come back foDsc03558r more.

The concert concluded with Prokofiev's 5th symphony, a deliberately accessible work meant to echo the Soviet army's advance against the invading Germans in 1944. The music took a while to get going, but there was a great build in the final movement to a near deafening conclusion. Boy, I'd forgotten how loud it can get in Avery Fisher - much more so than Carnegie. Another big ovation, followed by another encore - this time one of Prokofiev's Pushkin Waltzes, sending everyone home on an upbeat note.

Jurowski becomes the principal conductor of the London Philarmonic next season, while maintaining his duties with the RNO. Should be interesting to see if his experiences in London have any impact on the sound of this promising, if still developing, orchestra.