Moscow Orchestra magnificent in sold-out Tchaikovsky concert

By Cathalena E. Burch  -- ARIZONA DAILY STAR  -- Published: 01.28.2005

Tucson can consider itself spoiled: two performances of Tchaikovsky's exquisite Violin Concerto delivered by two of the country's pre-eminent violinists in the same month.

Superstar violinist Joshua Bell was first up, on Jan. 6 when he joined the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. On Wednesday night, Cho-Liang Lin, an equally proficient violinist, served up the encore with the venerable Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Russian-born conductor Yuri Simonov.

The orchestra, in its first Tucson appearance, performed an all-Tchaikovsky program. The glamour and promise of hearing some of the finest music ever composed by a Russian being interpreted by a Russian orchestra foretold Wednesday's astounding sellout. Every seat in the 2,500-seat Centennial Hall was sold, including those with obstructed views.

The orchestra and Lin did not disappoint. Lin proved technically up to the task to master Tchaikovsky's challenging Concerto in D major, considered among the most difficult of the violin literature. But his delivery was not nearly as animated as Bell's. Bell threw his body into the performance, swaying and bounding with each rise and fall of tempo.

Lin delivered more of a workman's reading of the piece, dancing diligently on both sides of the chords and drawing out the appropriate measure of drama and soulful romance. He made Tchaikovsky's concerto seem like child's play. Still, Lin's performance - particularly for those who witnessed Bell's - lacked a dynamic stage presence.

Which left your eyes and imagination to wander throughout the formally dressed orchestra that filled two-thirds of Centennial's stage.

Your gaze meandered to the violin section, where you couldn't help but be drawn into the sheer fluidity of sound and motion. Later in the evening, those strings produced a taut sound that was so crisp you could pick out individual players, and so cohesive it melded together in one delicious sonic wave throughout the Symphony No. 5 in the program's second half.

Over at the brass section at the concert's onset, trumpets blasted out the nationalistic intro to the stunning Capriccio Italien Op. 45. The trombone piped in, followed by the husky-voiced tuba, and you felt like you were on the sidelines of a parade with the most amazing marching band ever.

But once you locked your eyes onto Simonov, the impish Russian conductor known for his subtlety behind the baton, it was hard not to fall dreamily under his spell.

Simonov gently nudges his players. He points his baton to the brass with a crisp yank, and out comes a booming crescendo. He gently waves his hand over the strings, and they break out in a procession of sweeping melodies that bring to life the lush romance that defined the Symphony No. 5.

And with little more than a twitch of his finger, the entire orchestra erupts into soaring jubilation or wrenching sadness with such a depth and precision that you've rarely heard.

If you looked closely, you would have seen that Simonov performs this musical majesty without the benefit of a score.

Throughout the night, he did not consult any printed notes, yet he seemed to know exactly where he was and where he was headed. His luscious reading of Tchaikovsky came from somewhere deep beneath his surface closest to his soul.
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