The Mariinsky Orchestra Plays Fairfax
Fairfax Travel Blog› entry 48 of 107 › view all entries
The Northern Virginia suburbs were treated to a world-class music ensemble on Friday evening, November 14. The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra from St. Petersburg played George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, rather than downtown at the Kennedy Center, as its US concert tour stop for Washington, DC.
Founded as the Russian Imperial Opera orchestra in the time of Peter the Great, the Mariinsky Orchestra is one of the world’s oldest musical ensembles. The orchestra has gained new international fame in recent years under its enegertic conductor, Valery Gergiev. (Outside Russia, the Soviet-era Kirov Orchestra name is still used by concert promoters.)
I very much wanted to attend this concert and see Gergiev conduct an orchestral program. I’d seen the Mariinsky production of Mussorgsky’s opera Khovanshchina at the Kennedy Center some years ago. Our son, Drew, came home from university and his music studies to go with me. Afterwards, Drew was to comment that it was one of the best orchestral concerts he’d attended.
The concert program consisted of selections from Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella, the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto, and the Third Act from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet.
The Cinderalla excerpts proved a good warm-up selection. The different sections of the orchestra, especially percussion, were shown off effectively. The audience responded to the amusing asepcts of the score, such as the omnipresent “tick-tock” played on wooden blocks.
Russan pianist Alexi Volodin was the solist for the Beethoven Fourth Concerto. Accompslished and beginning his international career, he focused and played in a serious, no-nonsense, style. (He was a contrast to jovial Irish pianist John O’Conner who I’d heard play the Beethoven Third Concerto last spring.)
Gergiev took a gamble by playing the entire Third Act from Romeo and Juliet in a cocnert setting rather than the concert suites of popular excerpts. But, it enabled the story to come through and be told via the music. The orchetral sound was astonishing in its clarity and detail. As an encore, Gergiev played the rousing “fight scene” to finish off the evening and provided the audience one last opprotunity observe the individual muiscians at work. Clearly the Mariinsky Orchestra “owns” this music.
Valery Gergiev held center stage, literally and figuratively. He conducted from almost the middle of the orchetra by use of his hands alone, as they seemed to float over the ensemble. It was as if he was playing the orchestra as his own musical instrument.
The orchestra spent no time in Fairfax following the concert. The musicians were back aboard their tour busses and on the way back to New York City for a Prokofiev festival before we could leave the parking garage!