When the Russians play German works

About two weeks ago, I went to two classical concerts. Coincidently, both concerts were Russian (former Soviet Union, to be precise) musicians playing German works.
Oct 24 Goldberg Variations by Alexey Botvinov, NUS UCC Theater
Known to a few friends, for baroque keyboard pieces I’d alway prefer harpsichord much more than piano. Impressionism or smooth romantic is what I’d like to hear from piano. However I was still temped by this concert, as the Ukrainian pianist was among the winners of the 8th International J.S. Bach competition. I was hoping his trademark Goldberg variations could change my prejudice.
The theater wasn’t too big. Thanks to my friend reserving a seat. The acoustic in the 7th row was still acceptable though with little air-con noise and lack of some nice reverberation. I’m not at all an expert on piano playing. But it’s not too hard to tell the pianist done quite a nice job on the Steinway, though not enough to change my stubborn prejudice. The work was originally composed for two manual harpsichord, so the pianist has to show some technique to conquer it on the piano. Without doubt the Bach competition winner had no problem. My rating goes to 7.
Oct 27 Russian National Orchestra with Mikhail Pletnev, Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth
Esplanade Concert Hall
BEETHOVEN : Coriolan Overture, Op 62
BRAHMS : Concerto for Violin & Cello in A minor, Op 102
BEETHOVEN : Symphony No 7 in A, Op 92
With a little luck and help from my friend, I was able to put another big name from my hunting list into a log record. No doubt, RNO is on the world top orchestras list, especially for their world leading reference for Russian works. Though they cancelled the "Pathitique", the Beethoven Symphony No.7 was still a very much promising performence which they had just recorded with DG.

When the orchestra started with Coriolan overture, my ears were still warming up. The timbre of the strings was fine and plain, not too bright. The brass too. Very section is under the control of Pletnev’s baton. When Pinchas Zukerman and his wife joined RNO in the double concerto, my attraction was still more drawn to the orchestra. The quality of RNO and the philosophy of Pletnev was fully revealed  in the Beethoven Symphony No.7. Symphonic and disciplined, Pletnev was able to chisel out a rock-solid performence with RNO. After four or five curtain calls, no encore was given..I was told this was Pletnev’s philosophy and manner. A little bit disappointed, but this wouldn’t change the fact that this concert among the top 10 most memorable concerts I ever been. Rating 9 (-0.5 due to the sub seating)


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