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Ionarts-at-Large: Dancing with Vadim Repin

Some works need to have their greatness coaxed out of them (some Brahms), others are great because they cannot be ‘destroyed’ by a mediocre performance (Mozart). Still others are simply ‘good music’, variously dependent on their interpretation – and offering entertainment, just not that sense of elatedness. To my, probably biased, ears, Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole belongs to that last group.

It is also much more difficult to hear the soloist’s greatness in the Symphonie espagnole than, say, the Beethoven or Sibelius concerti. It’s a lovely showpiece of reasonable substance, and playing it well and flawlessly is really all it takes to do it well.

available at Amazon
E.Lalo, Symphonie espagnole et al.,
I.Perlman / D.Barenboim / O.d.Paris

available at Amazon
E.Lalo, Danzas fantásticas et al.,
J.Mena / BBC PO

Vadim Repin, who played that work with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on Thursday July 10th, did the flawless part of course. What would have made his performance stand out against any other ‘merely’ flawless performance, though, was the use of a great variety of colors – which Repin has in spades. Hollow, then honeyed, grave, gay, fantastical, ferocious, spontaneous and spunky, weary and wiry. And between all the extremes a wealth of subtle nuances. Not all, but many of which he packed into the four movements of that “Sarasate Concerto” that is the Symphonie esapgnole. It was preceded by Joaquin Turina’s Danzas fantásticas op.22 – lovely and feisty and forgettable music for the moment.

Fluff, well executed and entertaining though it was, gave way to meatier fare with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. A brash affair with lots of dogged determination and short on grace. For all the dainty dancing with which conductor Kirill Petrenko tried to elicit sounds from the BRSO, the result was rather foursquare and duty-bound. The lazy waltzing of the Andante con moto wasn’t just meaty, it was doughy. The Lento assai – Allegro vivace with its many premature climaxes was terribly excited but ultimately drove home the point that all these dances were a musical diet too one-sided.

Vadim Repin will perform with Nikolai Lugansky on November 15th in the Kennedy Center.

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