Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40
Rodion Schedrin: Piano concerto # 2
Igor Stravinsky: Suite from “The Firebird” (1919)
Rodion Schedrin: Humoresk for piano (encore)
Giuseppe Verdi: La Forza del Destino overture, 1862 version of the Petersburg premiere (encore)
Denis Matzuev, piano
Mariinskyi Orchestra, Valery Gergiev, conductor
Maison Symphonique de Montréal
November 11, 2017
Valery Gergiev and his orchestra honored us with a visit at the Maison Symphonique on November 11 with a memorable concert of three pieces performed with variety and eclecticism.
First came Stauss’s symphonic poem “A Hero’s Life,” with “elongated” tempi: because the maestro from Petersburg paid particular attention to the score, past the thunderous first measures played with intentional precipitation. The effect is striking: it was like listening to a reading of a personal diary. The violin and horn solos were performed with equal precision, string tutti with ample bass sound, woodwind counterpoint in the music critics’ motive, brilliant brass fanfare and spine shivering “Zarathustra” finale.
For Russian composer Schedrin’s Second Piano Concerto, Denis Matsuev displayed breath-taking virtuosity in the sixteenth-note melodic runs and three octaves chordal leaps, written in tight homophony, answering to strong orchestral accents in ways of a modern concerto grosso. It was like an idiomatic mix going from jazz to seventeenth century passacaglia (in the third and fourth movements).
Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite (1919 version) closed this musical feast: an abridged pot-pourri of the ballet’s main themes in 20 minutes of music. From the dark opening measures in the strings, to the exuberant finale, the sounds of the orchestra were rich with Russian colors: exotic chromaticisms in the woodwinds, bassoon folklore lullaby in the medium register (as in the Rite of Spring) played in ethereal rhythm, stretto “Infernal Dance.” One passage following another in an unceasing dialogue between sections of the orchestra, featuring each performer’s musicianship. Not one musical phrase went unnoticed. The secrets of Strauss, Schedrin and Stravinsky were revealed, or those of Gergiev himself.