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A Singer’s Notes 103: A Concert and a Rehearsal

Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Conductor

Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Conductor

Troy Savings Bank Concert Hall
1.29.15 @ 7:30pm

Mariinsky Orchestra
Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Conductor

Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet (Overture-Fantasy)
Prokofiev – Suite No. 3 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 101
Rachmaninoff – Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 13

There was none of the usual Russian overdrive in Ignat Solzhenitsyn’s performance with the fabled Mariinsky Orchestra last week in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. This worked well in selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, music which burns hot in performances by this orchestra and its regular music director Valery Gergiev. The orchestra had the misfortune of playing their Carnegie Hall concert in the midst of the Tuesday night blizzard and seemed a bit tired. This orchestra which tours constantly has my profound respect. It keeps the music of its native land passionately contemporary. In the great Prokofiev ballet one could follow the narrative of Shakespeare’s play through the performance with little left to wish for. Solzhenitsyn’s sober-sided approach won me over. The highlight of the evening, however, was the second encore, the Nimrod movement from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Here I heard the orchestra become more responsive, differently engaged. No English restraint to be heard. A shining beauty from the strings, and again, the top of the piece not overplayed.

I’ve been working on the great quintet from Act I of Mozart’s Magic Flute with my students. This unique musical structure goes from the singing of someone who cannot speak to a profound paean to music itself, and ends up with a sentimental farewell, or maybe not so sentimental. All of Mozart’s great operas tread a winding path between comedy and un-comedy. But here we must hear the orchestration of the piece, a flute played by someone in the orchestra while mimed on stage, and a little mechanical instrument played by the simple fellow Papageno, which requires no real skill on his part. This sound world is much more than charming. It looks into mystic worlds—music in the air coming from nowhere, then Tamino hearing it as much as he is miming it; a simple glockenspiel for Papageno, that also works at one remove and doesn’t really need to be played at all. Listen to the late piece Mozart wrote for glass harmonica—also a part of the ethereal band. Again, we hear a flute the player is not playing, a glockenspiel that doesn’t need to be played, and a harmonica which conjures sound out of the thin air. Working on the Quintet I started to hear what this was. How many pieces of music can, in less than three minutes, go from a mute buffoon who somehow sings, to a sublime praise of music itself which begins on a discord, to the valedictory final pages (now that we know what happened to Mozart) where all the characters are quietly singing “auf Wiedersehen.” This Quintet makes a rarified world audible, a comic world in the deepest sense, a profound world which sings its own silence.

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