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Sergey Khachatryan, the Lord Newlands, and the NSO

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Shostakovich, Violin Concertos,
S. Khachatryan, Orchestre National de France, K. Masur

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Shchedrin, Concertos for Orchestra 4/5, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, K. Karabits
Friday evening, the young Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan joined the National Symphony Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 2, conducted by Kirill Karabits. Khachatryan dug right into the work, sporting a quick, wide vibrato that created a carefully controlled shimmer. Khachatryan seemingly loves his violin -- the “Lord Newlands” Stradivarius from 1702 -- as he trustingly refrained from letting his personality overshadow this near-perfect instrument. Knowing its capabilities and limits, the performer maintained a flawless tonal perch above the orchestra and only broached the limits of the instrument by losing beauty in some frayed chords in the first movement. Khachatryan’s seamless legato, technical clarity offering intensity without stress, and edited-recording-quality perfection at times left one too comfortable and desirous of more risk taking and unquantifiable meaning. Overall, the first half of the program, which included the nondescript, six-minute Elegy for Strings by Valentin Silvestrov, was too gray for a concert in the depths of winter; the listener was neither awakened nor lulled into a dream.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, In its Russian roots, NSO finds new ground (Washington Post, January 14)

Marie Gullard, Debut repertoire marks conductor's first NSO appearance (Washington Examiner, January 12)

Joshua Kosman, Kirill Karabits, S.F. Symphony review: Grand debut (San Francisco Chronicle, January 8)

Richard Scheinin, Grimaud shows Schumann how it should be done (San Jose Mercury News, January 7)
The second half of the program was devoted to Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, which offered a spring garden of energetic color and orchestrational cleverness. Whether a moment with the timpani taking a motif before the brass or when the winds step in to imitate the brass choir, Sibelius uses his most interesting tricks of orchestration just once, leaving the symphony full of enjoyable surprises. The balances of the orchestra were ever impressive, and the young Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits, current Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (where he succeeded Marin Alsop), seemed pleased with the collective outcome. However, his constant swaying back and forth, and left and right (occasional jumps are of course always fun), to expand or help extend his gesture became a distraction. Because he also kept his hands often at head level or higher, one wished he conducted more from his core or invested in a long baton.

This concert will be repeated once more, this evening (January 15, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

1 comment:

herman said...

"Khachatryan seemingly loves his violin -- the “Lord Newlands” Stradivarius from 1702 -- as he trustingly refrained from letting his personality overshadow this near-perfect instrument."

What does this even mean? Perhaps the reviewer wished to mention the instrument, but to weave this into this kind of purple prose helps no one, IMO.