Yuri Serov, Professor Conservator St. Petersburg

Academic Symphony Orchestra of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia<br />
Walter Proost<br />
Eliane Rodrigues

Musica Romantica 2010

The mountain cool of Saastal gave a special tint to the orchestra's return to Musica Romantica after a five-year pause. The nearly home-like atmosphere of quiet so well remembered by the musicians; the beauty of the mountains around, and the unusually clear, intoxicating air were enhanced by a temperature comfort enabling them to do their loved work, that is to make music, with pleasure.

The philharmonic musicians from St. Petersburg were quick to repay the Swiss idyll with something good. On the very next day after their arrival, they inspiredly performed Scheherazade. The orchestra conducted by Alexander Dmitriev sounded freshly and flexibly, and the impressive work of the orchestra's many soloists (first of all, Alexander Shustin in violin solos, and clarinetist Adil Fedorov) deserved special excited applause of the audience. This wonderful Oriental tale, these splendid sceneries of southern seas, and powerful motions of water fantastically rendered in music by former naval officer Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov were in a sudden contrast with the Alpine snowy peaks, adding a surrealistic accent to everything, which however was in favor of the event.

I thought it was a great happiness that Musica Romantica is back, and that the magnificent enormous symphony orchestra is heard again among these eternally silent giant landscapes.

In the second part of the concert, Eliane Rodrigues played Tchaikovsky's B flat minor concerto. As always, her musical utterance was deeply individual, very personal - indeed unlike anything we could hear before. Add enchanting tempos and unbelievable temperament, combine them with precise and sensitive accompaniment by maestro Dmitriev and his orchestra, and you will have an excellent night full of artistic discoveries and joys.

I would name Eliane's performance of the Concerto in F minor of Chopin among the most significant musical pages of this year's festival. One desires to re-read such pages over and over again. Eliane conducted the orchestra herself that night, but even a severe critic would have failed to find a flaw in such practice of combining artistic positions.

Chopin's concertos do not suggest competition between orchestra and piano solo typical for the instrumental concerto genre, nor do they suggest any excessive richness of orchestral texture. Piano dominates there completely, and is but slightly supported by an orchestra (like ballet dancers do) of a relatively small line-up.

The pianist had time to show the musicians all the necessary introductions by heart (do you remember the well-known rule of conductors of the past, "keep the score in your head, not your head in the score"?), while simultaneously inspiring the partners with strikingly sincere, soulful, and yet high-spirited performance. It is "her" music, where she can move to tears any person not indifferent to art. But "her" Chopin never is saccharine or effeminate, weak or tearful. It seems that in her interpretation he is as we imagine him or as we wish to hear him.

A special pitch and moment of that Wednesday night was that the second part also featured Chopin's concerto in E minor. The pianist (and conductor at the same time) handled the unbelievably complicated creative and technical task without any visible effort or strain.

The German night featured a diversity of soloists. Eliane Rodrigues was joined by Liviu Prunaru (violin) and Godfried Hoogeveen (cello), leading concert masters of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, one of the world's best orchestra, to play together the breathtaking Beethoven concerto for piano, violin and cello with orchestra.

Once again, Liviu Prunaru proved by his performance that he is deservedly considered among the best young violinists in Europe. The musician's playing is amazingly clear, beautiful, technically perfect, and diverse in strokes and nuances; he never passes by the tiniest details of Beethoven's score.

Godfried Hoogeveen, who brilliantly performed the famous "Arpeggione" sonata of Schubert in the chamber music concert a few days earlier, did his best in this concert too, excellently handling the cornerstone of the literature for the instrument (which Beethoven's Triple Concerto surely is for cellists.) His artistic image attracts you with a great culture of musicianship, soft and warm sound of the instrument, and true artistic maturity of the highest quality.

Eliane decorated the international trio with a beautiful touch, adding pianistic luster and creative joy to the strings. This joy could be felt throughout the performance of Beethoven's masterpiece. In the second part, the orchestra led by Alexander Dmitriev offered the listeners a meticulously faceted diamond, the Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms. The magic of creativity did not leave us all through the concert, from the very first to the last minute.

8 and 15.08.2010
The chamber concerts of Musica Romantica will be remembered for two monumental achievements. In the first case, Eliane Rodrigues appeared with Liviu Prunaru and Godfried Hoogeveen to perform Schubert's Trio in B flat major feelingly and with desired luster. In this piece, the musicians managed to amply deliver the Viennese ease and grace. And on the second Sunday of the festival, the pianist presented a sparkling interpretation of Schumann's Piano Quintet, this time in an ensemble with the Stravinsky Quartet.

The American night suggested from the start an abundance of audience and a convincing success. It is hard to find opuses addressing the audience in a more exact and direct manner than the best masterpieces of Gershwin and Bernstein. The orchestra had performed most of the pieces on the program several times, therefore it followed the night's conductor Walter Proost with evident pleasure, easily overcoming all rhythmic and ensemble difficulties of the American classics. Walter, who is known as a specialist in this repertoire, and who had had postgraduate training with Leonard Bernstein, was literally "bathing" in this music, charging the whole house with elation. Clear and precise gestures of the conductor added to the festive atmosphere that prevailed that night.

Eliane Rodrigues brilliantly played Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. And again, she played this worldwide "hit" as her own piece of music, improvising - and repeating nothing, but always reverting to the same themes in a new way. Music seemed to be born here and now for us the listeners. I daresay that such interpretation "becomes" the great American improviser very much.

Violinist Dora Schwarzberg became the undisputable hero of the French night. All of her intonations and motifs are full of ample sense and special tension, making you listen to her with a special tension, and share her feelings. Dora is a brilliant representative of the famous Odessa violin school. And we should be thankful to her for keeping the great traditions of the past alive. The idea of performing two subtlest, nearly "weightless" violin sonatas of Debussy and Ravel in a version for violin and symphony orchestra could seem somewhat arguable at first, but it proved to be quite viable in the end.

Some new colors, some fresh emotions were produced, while the orchestrations by Jorge Bosso, tactful and stylistically close to the orchestral manner of writing of the great Frenchmen of the early 20th century, were well in harmony with the program of the second part, where Alexander Dmitriev and his orchestra performed their favorite Ravel. The freedom, excellence, and pleasure of the orchestra and the conductor, and a clever and fine, almost pictorial "ornamental script" of Ravel's masterpieces vividly presented by St. Petersburg musicians gave sheer aesthetic delight to the audience. It was an emotion so valued, and so rare, in today's world.

The festival's guests were awaiting the cinema music program with manifest impatience. The concert was a success indeed, and an exciting final chord of the entire festival. The expectations of the overpacked house were not in vain. Eliane, who conducted St. Petersburg's philharmonic musicians that evening, had done a great preparatory work carefully selecting the most impressive soundtracks of the world cinema for the program. As a result, she managed to create a very integral, thrilling, and striking picture, which did not resemble a "patchwork quilt" in any way. There was room enough for resolute music episodes from "Star Wars", "Gladiator" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" and marvelous lyric of "Schindler's List", "Once Upon a Time in America" or "The Godfather."

Eliane alternated orchestral episodes with piano solo items, adding to the concert intonations of sorrow at inevitable parting with the unforgettable festival days. The audience responded to each piece in the concert with immense enthusiasm, and it seemed that the applause would never end.

The colossal success of the final event, as well as of all the preceding concerts; positive emotions of the musicians and of all the audience; happy faces, and desire to come to the festival again next August - could one wish a more impressive result of the two-week musical marathon? Bravo, Música Romântica, and see you again!

Yuri Serov
Professor Conservatorium St. Petersburg