Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra review

BIZARRE STAGE LAYOUT MUFFLES MOSCOW PHILHARMONIC SOUND


Moscow Philharmonic at Symphony Hall ★★★

This concert was hampered by the orchestra's bizarre presentation decisions. At their request half the choir seating was removed and the back of the concert platform draped in black curtains, and no risers were used so that all players were on the same level. This left the wind section, in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1, attempting to project through the conductor and the raised piano lid. No wonder they sounded muffled, as did the brass players squeezed up against the sound-absorbent curtains. I can't fathom what musical purpose the arrangement was meant to serve but it failed to match the spirited playing of soloist Alexandra Dariescu – her ample power for the famous opening's chords, winning delicacy in the slow movement, and with a silvery touch in the finale.

Maria Antal's Event Horizon was receiving its UK premiere. The pieces of hers I've heard (many are available online at Soundcloud) consist of miniature ambient works and genre pastiches. This concert overture sounded like four of them stitched together underpinned by a minimalist chugging beat and chord changes. Pleasant background music but not substantial enough for the foreground. Yuri Simonov conducted a first rate performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No 10 marred only by the recessed sound from the basses who were obscured at ground level behind the cellos. Simonov's handling of the opening movement's tricky tempo and volume increases was masterly as was the finale, oscillating between gloom and Haydnesque high jinks. Powerful and gutsy playing too especially in the ferocious scherzo.

Norman Stinchcombe

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