Vladimir Spivakov and The Moscow Virtuosi

Date and Venue Thursday, 8 May 2008 @ 8pm | The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC

Vivaldi Violin Concerto in E minor (Vladimir Spivakov, violin) Rossini Sonata No. 3 Boccherini Symphony in D minor “Casa del DiavoloTchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Reviewer J H Stape

First impressions, for better or worse, tend to be lasting ones, and when Vladimir Spivakov plunged with gusto into the immensely appealing Vivaldi Violin Concerto in E minor, a good evening seemed to be in prospect.

In the event, it proved an utterly splendid one, with this ensemble offering vigorous, polished playing, intense musicality, and in its no less than five encores (most quite brief) as rollicking a time as can be had in the concert hall.

The Vivaldi showed this orchestra's strength from the first chords -- a rich and creamy tone, delicacy and refinement of touch in the classic string traditions of Eastern Europe, and marked expressiveness.

A more interesting piece than the played-to-death Four Seasons, this immensely appealing violin concerto, spirited and energetic, made large demands on the soloist, easily met.

One doesn't associate Russians with the frothy and ebullient Rossini style, but with its opposite (a heaviness tending to the ponderous) -- and how wrong such an assumption proved as the Moscow Virtuosi pulled off this sonata with daunting precision of address.

The first movement -- almost music-box in character -- was starkly contrasted with a second of dramatic energy, with the presto finale, almost gypsy-like, resplendently played, the celli and basses in particular achieving something close to the wondrous. (And how well The Chan's fine accoustics served this group of thirty top flight musicians.)

Boccherini saw the brass on stage for a truly devilish work of dash and verve, the performance fully justifying the sympony's sub-title, with daring-do as much on display as the essence of Classical style -- urbanity and inventive appeal. Characterful playing, a bravura swagger and brilliant blaze were all headily to the fore.

Definitive isn't a word that one can use often, but such was the performance of the familiar and much loved Tchaikovsky Serenade, these Moscovites bringing off Tchaikovsky's homage to Mozart with elegant and refined playing, polished in the smallest detail.

The famous second movement waltz was a delicate thing of colour and easy graciousness in their hands, brimming with the charm of the salon, while the third movement elegy, tautly played, was emotionally intense and shimmering. The finale was redolent of Paganini: the self-conscious but winning dazzle of a very good boy very much showing off.

And that mood continued to the close, in effect a mini-concert in itself, with brief encores from Mozart, Shostakovich (yes, they do modern music too), two tangos by Ástor Piazzolla played to perfection by special guest and special treat gold-medal accordionist Nikita Vlasov.

And to close tossed in for good measure, was Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody," so perky, strutting, and irresistible that the full house couldn't resist joining in with rhythmic clapping. Roll over, Beethoven, my foot. Roll over, Beatles -- and as presto as possible.

© 2008 J H Stape