Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vasily Petrenko in Paris

Wallin-Sibelius-Tchaikovsky, Salle Pleyel in Paris, November 30 2011

Vass Petrenko

Conductor ..... Vasily Petrenko
 Soloist/Violin ..... Joshua Bell

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

After the best conducted Eugene Onegin I was ever given to listen to in my life [tha was at the Paris Opera last year, and with the orchestra that Petrenko was able to work with only for a very short period of time!]  I was waiting for an opportunity to listen to a concert with Vasily Petrenko conducting. He was with his orchestra at Théâtre des Champs Elysées in December 2010 but that was when I was not in Paris.  This time around I couldn't miss his concert no matter what...

Vasily must be one of the best conductors in the world today. His boyish looks add to his presence something insolent, something out of ordinary, and in the end of performance it feels as if he just landed from his trip and asks "What the heck has just happened!?" He definitely knows how to convey the message to the orchestra, to produce the sounds that make the usual scores sound different, refreshing, surprising. A true artist! If you ever get the chance to listen to this man conducting one of the orchestras he's collaborating with, then rush to get your ticket.

The Oslo Philharmonics had their best days under Mariss Jansons, and starting from 2013 Vas Petrenko will be the chief director of this orchestra, and I believe that orchestra will soon rise to the level of the Royal Concertgebouw, Berlin Philharmonics, or the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra -- the three arguably most solid orchestra right now, together with the Philharmonia, Staatskapelle, and the Chicago Symphony. It is of course ridiculous to be implicitly dismissive to other orchestra, but these that I mentioned are the ones that are invariably excellent, while the others have their good and sometimes a bit less good moments. 
Vasily is the current chief conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic [and will occupy that position until at least 2015] with whom he recorded a series of SUPERBLY performed Symphonies by Shostakovich.  OK, I should stop gushing and write about this concert...

The ONLY blurred person in this photo is the composer Rolf Wallin -- and that was a single photo I took. Man...

To make the concert less predictable and more exciting, they opened with a piece called "Act" by Rolf Wallin, a Norwegian composer, who finished this comparably short [about 10 minutes] work in 2003. This was its first performance in France, and the composer himself came up on the stage to greet the appreciative crowd. As usual, the contemporary music is huge fun to listen to in a concert hall, and you appreciate it totally differently than listening to it on your iPod. This piece is rather easy on your ear but it is not something you could listen to and do something else. It needs and it captures your attention fully. There is tension, eroticism, and a network of motives that actually converges/culminates relatively fast. I hope Oslo Philharmonics will come back soon with some more stuff from Wallin's opus.

Then came the Sibelius part. Joshua Bell is one of the most well known violinists today. It must be hard for him to carry a burden of celebrity because this kind of serious concerts are regularly a big test for him. There is always a fraction of public who come with intention to diminish the celebrity status of a give artist, look for tiny imprecisions in execution, searching the elements to call the performance dis-engaging, or the interpretation "dry". Sibelius Violin Concerto was like a carpet for Joshua to express his virtuosity, his elegance, his expressivity, even if too exuberant at times. A cascade of bravos came almost naturally in the end, and with 2 encores Joshua entertained his love affair with the Paris crowd. Needless to say that Petrenko and the orchestra were excellent company. I did not find a YT video with Joshua playing the Violin Concerto by Sibelius, but I did find the one with a very passionate and very young Valeriy Sokolov who performed it 3 years ago at Cité de la Musique in Paris (you can start from here.)

Always brilliant Joshua Bell

And the final part of this very pleasant concert was the Symphony No.4 by Tchaikovsky. I am not really a fan of all Symphonies by Tchaikovsky. Not that I don't like them. I do, I do, but not as passionately as I admire the Symphonies by Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Beethoven, and even Bruckner, or the gems by Haydn... The Symphonies No.4 and 5 are exceptions [thanks to my Barenboim-mania! ;)], and I never managed to fully get into the swing of The Six (that most people prefer)

In short, I loved the 4th as performed by the Oslo Philharmonics and the formidable Vas Petrenko! I guess it is a sign that I'm getting old, but I most enjoyed the second movement. It was delicately tempered, and every note was flying with purpose. The third movement was the less interesting but the fourth compensated it greatly. That was where Vasily Petrenko played his major role and tamed the orchestra not to get overboard, and yet relate the music to the emotional urgency that this movement supports so wonderfully. 

I found a YT video with Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra performing the Symphony No.5 by Tchaikovsky, with Vasily Petrenko conducting. Enjoy!

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