Kremlin ensemble offers mixed outing at Arsht Center

By Lawrence Budmen

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin offered a strong display of Russian string playing in a rather short program Wednesday night at the Arsht Center. This youthful, well-drilled group exhibited smooth precision and lovely, caressing tone in works of Elgar, Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky under the direction of Misha Rachlevsky, the ensemble’s founder.

Elgar’s unabashedly sentimental Serenade for Strings was played in a lighter, more fluid manner than the overtly pastoral approach of many British ensembles. The lyrical line of the moving Larghetto soared effortlessly, the music singing with unforced eloquence.

The best performance of the evening went to the program’s most significant work—Schoenberg’s Verklaerte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Originally conceived in 1899 as a string sextet, Schoenberg later rescored the work for large string orchestral forces.

Rachlevsky’s fifteen-member ensemble is closer to the work’s chamber origins, a definite advantage. This is ultraromantic music at emotional fever pitch from the father of atonality. The Moscow-based players delivered an intense performance, imbued with passion and heightened emotion. Lush, vibrant sonorities and flawless intonation brought aural rays of light to Schoenberg’s musical journey.

Rachlevsky shaped the performance splendidly with the big, dramatic outbursts given maximum impact. At the work’s conclusion, the final soft tones seemed to fade away. This was a thoughtfully conceived, musically vital realization of one of the seminal works of the string repertoire.

Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings seems to be the inevitable score for any concert by a Russian string ensemble. Just a few monthes ago Vladimir Spivakov’s Moscow Virtuosi played it in the same hall.

Rachlevsky offered a solid, well coordinated reading that lacked the imagination and risk taking of Spivakov’s performance. He introduced some unconventional dynamic contrasts into a fast-paced opening movement. The Valse was efficiently rendered but lacked aristocratic grace, that uniquely Tchaikovskyan sense of an imperial Russian waltz.

Appropriately the Elegie plumbed the depths of the Russian soul. Rachlevsky drew deeply expressive playing, thick with rubato. The music’s sense of darkness and tragedy was strongly projected. Played for sheer brilliance, the finale emerged somewhat monochromatic but undeniably virtuosic. An audience that applauded the Schoenberg politely went wild over this crowd pleaser.

As encores Rachlevsky led a fiery transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee, impressively articulated at a fierce clip, and two contrasting works by Astor Piazzolla – the sultry Melody in A minor and bristling Libertango.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Thu Feb 3, 2011
at 11:22 am
No Comments