Music review: Russian National Orchestra

Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Russian National Orchestra at Usher Hall, reviewed by Kenneth Walton

This was the complete package – orchestra, conductor and soloist all from the same solid Russian stock, and in repertoire from the late Romantic heyday of their country’s rich and tuneful musical heritage.
And how fascinating to see two pianists combine thoughts on such a warhorse as Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2, Nikolai Lugansky as soloist, and Mikhail Pletnev wielding the baton over his Russian National Orchestra.

But the ball was unequivocally in Lugansky’s court, the compelling combination of his incisive, articulate clarity and glowing, expressive girth driving the momentum of a performance borne out of natural musicality and unfettered passion. Pletnev gave him his place, eliciting rich-toned support from his orchestra with unshowy finesse.

Glazunov’s gorgeously iridescent ballet score, The Seasons, proved the perfect counterbalance to the Rachmaninov, its delicate musical scenery packed with glistening colours and joyous levity, and those ripe and succulent timbres you tend only genuinely to experience from Russian orchestras.

Beyond the brief uncertainty of the opening bars, Pletnev settled his troops, whose swaying warmth gave characterful realisation to Glazunov’s Winter imagery, the Tchaikovskian lightness of Spring, Summer’s sunny dances, and the sumptuous exuberance of Autumn’s exuberant Bacchanal.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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