Your favorite publication should have a proper review of tonight's Russian
National Orchestra concert in Davies Hall; here you will get "the rest
of the story."
This fine group of musicians has a great ensemble sound, so one wonders
why neither the Russian government nor ticket revenues can support the
orchestra. Most of their budget - especially for tours - comes from
Gordon Getty and Charles Simonyi.
The program consisted of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" and Piano Concerto
No. 3, and Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3. Mikhail Pletnev, the music
director, made his usual entrance, staring at the audience with disdain,
glancing up at an unseen deity he was questioning about the need to
undergo this humiliating exercise. For the rest of the evening, he
worked hard at giving "dour" a bad name. Incidentally, he is a decent
conductor, certainly better than he is a pianist.
As to the pianist, Alexander Mogilevsky, here is a major Rach-3-banger,
with the worst obsessive-compulsive habit since the unlamented days of
Susan Starr's convulsive pianism. It has to do with a piece of cloth,
a large one. A cross between a security blanket and Pavarotti's oversized
white hankie, the Thing is used to dry and rub Mogilevsky's hands and
face. At every possible moment of "downtime" (of which there are
fortunately few in this concerto), the pianist reached for the cloth,
to rub his face, then roll it between his hands until the last possible
moment re-entering the fray. At times when there was no possible chance
to reach the security hankie, Mogilevsky still tried, in a futile,
heartbreaking gesture of yearning.
Halfway through the concerto, Mogilevsky replaced the cloth on the
piano with an identical - and presumably drier - piece from his pocket.
The man is not only obsessive-compulsive, he is also consistent and
resourceful... and very annoying. In a more learned review, you may
find this about his playing: technically impressive, musically effortful.
As to the serious and businesslike orchestra, there was one breakthrough
of humanity. After a spectacularly huge fortissimo in the piano concerto,
cellists and violinists beamed at each other, body language speaking
loudly: "We made a really big boom-boom!" Everybody seemed to enjoy the
moment, except for Pletnev, staring into space, and Mogilevsky, rubbing
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