Yuri Serov

St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Eliane Rodrigues - Conductor, Choir Ex Tempore

For many years now, listening to concerts of the Música Romântica festival in Saas-Fee, I have been trying to identify the main musical impressions, those to be kept in memory for the whole year until a next musical summer; the artistic events without which it is now hard to imagine the life of this unbelievably attractive Alpine village built by industrious hands of many generations of Swiss people.

First of all I will dwell on two musical moments of August 2014, the key moments in my opinion. The first one is the performance by Eliane Rodrigues of Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante by Chopin in the chamber music concert (11.08.2014). I have perhaps never heard this piece so unpredictably romantic, so sad, and at the same time so strong and full of amazing beauty. Eliane always plays in a very individual, very free, very improvisational manner, but this time she was weaving endless Chopinian laces so dazzlingly, so exquisitely and virtuoso that the audience (and I among them) were lost in some kind of a deep musical trance.

Of course Eliane Rodrigues is the muse and soul of the festival, its artistic center, but she is also a generator of a kind, a generator of continuous creative energy, which she shares regularly and generously with performers, and with listeners, the energy she had probably accumulated as early as in her childhood, under the hot sun of Copacabana beaches.    

Walliser Hollywood Night (13.08.2014) gave us most diversified musical impressions, and Eliane Rodrigues led the concert as conductor in a temperamental and expressive way. Probably the most intriguing thing was acquaintance with four fragments from John Debney’s oratorio The Passion of the Christ. In recent years, crossover opuses may frequently be heard at concert venues worldwide, and Música Romântica did not stand back from the popular trend. Eliane Rodrigues, the Ex Tempore choir, and the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra reconstructed, in full conformity with the author’s idea, an epic musical picture, a kind of biblical fresco, where archaic motives and ancient languages (including Aramaic, the language of Christ), are organically combined with the most advanced means of expression. Also very impressive in the concert were Tchaikovsky's masterpiece overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet, Rodrigo’s famous Adagio from his Concierto de Aranjuez (where harp, Aurelie Viegas, soloed instead of guitar, and that was even more expressive than in the original orchestration), and pieces by Hollywood guru John Williams. The night was topped with an astoundingly virtuoso fragment from the ballet Daphnis et Chloe by Ravel, which was encored by the audience’s demand.

It was not the first time that violinist Liviu Prunaru appeared in Saas-Fee. A great master, a subtle and inspired musician, he gave a lot of joy to the audience with his duo with Eliane Rodrigues in Mendelssohn’s concerto for violin, piano, and strings (Romantica, 08.08.2014). The sound of Liviu Prunaru’s Stradivarius and the magnificent concert Fazioli of Eliane Rodrigues filled the church in Saas-Fee with charming Romantic tunes, in full conformity with the concert’s title. In the first part of the program, Werner Bärtschi soloed in Beethoven’s concerto (No. 3, c-moll). The pianist from Zurich performed in a reputable “German” manner, preventing any ambiguous interpretation and strikingly different from the impulsive and reverent reading of Mendelssohn’s masterpiece.

I liked very much Seasons by Astor Piazzolla in an unusual arrangement for a trio of piano, violin, and cello (Rendez-vous des musiciens, 10.08.2014). Eliane felt at home in fiery Latin rhythms and intonations (but are there any pieces in her repertoire that she plays without pleasure and where she does not feel at ease?) and carried her partners, aristocratic and refined Godfried Hoogeveen and talented, artistic Ning Kam away with her to an emotional voyage through the history of tango. Eliane obviously experimented much, adding her fresh composer colors to the score. In general, the chamber music concert worked out really eventful and diversified.

The Mozartean program (Cosi fan tutte, 11.08.2014) was entrusted to conductor Dirk Vermeulen this year, and it was a successful choice. Dirk is a specialist in classical orchestra repertoire well-known in Europe. His Mozart is always very vivid, sincere, full of forceful passions, stylistically proved and faultlessly logical. The sweeping and powerful Haffner Symphony (D-dur, KV385) sparkled with brightest colors, and Piano concerto in A-dur (KV 488) played by Eliane Rodrigues flawlessly and clearly became the soulful lyrical culmination of the entire concert, “a flower between two chasms” of a kind: Mozart’s Mass in C major and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances. A remarkable ensemble, the Ex Tempore chamber choir led by Florian Heyerick, which once again proved its highest class and professionalism, contributed to both opuses. The St. Petersburg Orchestra, having finely dealt with Mozart’s stylistic challenges and difficulties – in Polovtsian Dances unleashed all its dashing vigor at last. The wild dances of the horde that plundered the Ancient Rus for several centuries seemed to be shaking not just the walls of the Pfarrkirche Saas-Fee, but also the Alpine summits themselves.

Walliser Hollywood Night (13.08.2014) gave us most diversified musical impressions, and Eliane Rodrigues led the concert as conductor in a temperamental and expressive way. Probably the most intriguing thing was acquaintance with four fragments from John Debney’s oratorio The Passion of the Christ. In recent years, crossover opuses may frequently be heard at concert venues worldwide, and Música Romântica did not stand back from the popular trend. Eliane Rodrigues, the Ex Tempore choir, and the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra reconstructed, in full conformity with the author’s idea, an epic musical picture, a kind of biblical fresco, where archaic motives and ancient languages (including Aramaic, the language of Christ), are organically combined with the most advanced means of expression. Also very impressive in the concert were Tchaikovsky's masterpiece overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet, Rodrigo’s famous Adagio from his Concierto de Aranjuez (where harp, Aurelie Viegas, soloed instead of guitar, and that was even more expressive than in the original orchestration), and pieces by Hollywood guru John Williams. The night was topped with an astoundingly virtuoso fragment from the ballet Daphnis et Chloe by Ravel, which was encored by the audience’s demand.

I feel less easy reviewing the first program of the festival (From Russia with Love, 06.08.2014), as I was most directly involved in it, but without doubt the duo of Eliane Rodrigues and Petersburg’s excellent trumpeter Mikhail Druzhinin in the concerto of young Shostakovich did not leave the audience untouched. The virtuoso brilliance and lyrical episodes alternated, rendering a special charm to the music. The orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Solemn Overture, the final act of the program, with undoubted proficiency and enthusiasm; the audience responded with an extended ovation. The festive atmosphere created by the festival’s very first concert prevailed there until the very end.
Yuri Serov,
professor, St Petersburg Conservatory