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Kirov Orchestra - Gala Concert and Benefit for The National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction

- Classical and Cultural

Music Performance Reviews

Kirov Orchestra
Of the Mariinsky Theatre
Valery Gergiev, Music Director and Conductor
Maxim Shostakovich, Conductor
Alexander Toradze, Piano
Vadim Repin, Violinist
Nikolai Lugansky, Pianist

Carnegie Hall
A Benefit for
The National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction

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More Kirov Reviews

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 13, 2003

(This Gala Concert and Benefit for The National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction was planned to help fund programs for children, who have craniofacial conditions, through comprehensive surgery, medical research, professional training, and various initiatives for public awareness. (NFFR Notes). An educational film was shown to the audience, prior to the concert).

This was a concert, publicized as a "Concert for Medicine". As it happened, Yefim Bronfman (See Review of PCS Spring Gala), the pianist scheduled for the second half of the program, took ill with the flu, at the last minute, and the concert organizers and Valery Gergiev, Music Conductor, recruited Vadim Repin, who had just performed Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic, to perform a last minute surprise. Also recruited on the run was Nikolai Lugansky, who was to make his piano "debut" at the Metropolitan Museum the following day.

Maxim Shostakovich, son of the composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, took his baton to Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. The racing and swelling melodies of this piece, which was used for Disney's Fantasia, were superbly developed, through Maestro Shostakovich's interpretations. Maestro Shostakovich and his son, Dmitri, named for his father, are U. S. citizens, having been granted asylum in 1981. He has conducted orchestras around the world and on the steps of the U. S. Capitol.

Maestro Shostakovich then conducted his father's Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 35, with Alexander Toradze at the piano. Mr. Toradze is a commanding presence, and I found this piece to be one of the highlights of the evening. With it's contrasting dissonant and melodic passages that seemed to evoke images of the icy Russian winters, Maestro Shostakovich energized the Hall, and Mr. Toradze built the repetitive and elongated themes in a fascinating and breathtaking manner.

Polovtsian Dances, by Borodin, for full orchestra, emanated with its romantic waltzes, including the inspiration for Stranger from Paradise. With tiny chiming effects, Borodin entranced the Kirov Orchestra, as it entranced this Benefit, sold-out audience. Kudos to Maestro Shostakovich for his masterful and memorable performance tonight, with such a seasoned and cohesive orchestra that also performs with the Kirov Ballet and the Kirov Opera.

Valery Gergiev stood on the Conductor's podium with his own orchestra for the second half of tonight's benefit concert. Maestro Gergiev is an imposing figure, who elicits extremely subtle orchestral effects, without use of a baton, but rather through large or tiny signals through his fingers and eyes. This orchestra is at one with Maestro Gergiev, and the Conductor and musicians appear to admire one another tremendously. Maestro Shostakovich was a cerebral conductor next to Maestro Gergiev, who exuded a more visceral virtuosity.

The first substitute musician, Nikolai Lugansky, was a bit stage struck, as his next day's "debut" would be in a smaller hall at a less grandiose venue. His "selections from Rachmaninoff" were brief and melodic. In the forefront of Maestro Gergiev and his Kirov Orchestra, Mr. Lugansky almost disappeared, as his stage presence is stiff and without affect. However, the performance was acceptable, and Mr. Lugansky created some lovely moments, and to stand in for Mr. Bronfman must have been quite a professional risk for such a neophyte.

Another highlight of the evening was Maestro Gergiev's interpretation of excerpts of Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker. After all, this is the orchestra of the famed Kirov Ballet, and the Russian Nutcracker is an international staple of the December ballet season. The nuances in my mind's eye, as I imagined the sword fights, with the Mouse King, the Nutcracker/Soldier, the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the snowflake scenes, and the scenes of the Christmas tree expanding up to the ceiling, were all ethereal and ever-present. Maestro Gergiev and his relaxed musicians certainly know this music, and it was a balletomane's delight.

As a final surprise, Maestro Gergiev brought Vadim Repin to the stage, fresh from the stage of Avery Fisher Hall, who performed the final movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto No. 1. Mr. Repin was perfection plus. This performance was a delightful dessert, following the confections of The Nutcracker. I would love to hear Mr. Repin again for the full Concerto, as he is a truly exciting musical personality, one who brought out the passion and power that Tchaikovsky represents.

Kudos to Maestros Gergiev and Shostakovich and to the Kirov Orchestra. All of the artists performing tonight donated their services on behalf of the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction,

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at