Saturday, 28 March 2015

Mischa Maisky, not Jacqueline Du Pre.

I'm so fixated on Jacqueline du Pre that I rarely listen to other cellists. However when a great player comes to town I have the opportunity to challenge my narrow mindedness.

Tonight I'll hear Mischa Maisky. A real treat, really one of the greats, even dubbed the 'future Rostropovich' after his debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic. Due to my ignorance I thought I'd do a little homework. He is a Latvian born Israeli who now resides in Brussels. He has a very impressive list of recordings with Deutsche Gramophone and his concert calendar is very busy, changing repertoire for each performance. His critiques have mentioned however, that he plays with too much vibrato and always to loud, so lets see. I found a you tube recording in which he performs the first Bach suite. Well, I'm a baroque specialist and therefore a tough critic. Nevertheless I found his interpretation to be in keeping with what us 'specialists' believe to be how Bach would have intended it. He played with a fantastic understanding of the long phrases, his beautiful technical finesse permitted such musicality as well as giving the audience a wonderful view of the intricate and expressive harmonic structure. Except for the daggy French mordents he added to the cadences (they really did appear to be faecal pendulums on a sheep), it was a delightfully uplifting performance.

Tonight's concert will include Shlomo of Ernest Bloch and after the interval Richard Strauss' Don Quixote. Both pieces use the voice of the cello to represent the rhetoric of famous men. The interval provides time for a significant 'costume' or character change for this ambitious programme. Shlomo is the Hebrew word for Solomon and the piece was conceived as a piece for voice using the text from the Book of Ecclesiastes. Bloch had difficulty deciding which language to use for the voice of Solomon. At that time he heard the cellist Alexandre Barjanksy and found the voice of the cello to suit that of Solomon perfectly. In stark contrast to the wise and powerful King Solomon, Don Quixote is a self dubbed knight rendered insane after reading too many stories of chivalrous knights. The viola takes the voice of Sancho Panza, who is farmer that Don Quixote takes on as his squire.

The performance was stunning. As expected Maisky was in top form. He produced an exquisite and enormous sound, despite such a 'big' sound his range of dynamics in all registers were impressive. Delicate pianos in the lowest register which were audible during tutti sections and all up to fortissimo pizzicati all of which created the most expressive and engaging rhetoric. His technique was  'über' perfect allowing an intense focus on musical expression. Most impressive to myself was his ability to perform the role of soloist whilst maintaining a strong connection with the overall musical experience. A team player who shone as soloist. A very versatile, sensitive and sensational musician is he.

The orchestra rose to the occasion and shone. All string sections, unified making a beautiful sound. The winds playing in ensemble as one instrument yet the solo instruments jumping out with delightful solos from all sections equally; flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. Very clean and perfectly in tune playing from the whole brass section. The ensemble between all sections of the orchestra was not far from perfect under the baton of their chief conductor, the magnificent Asher Fisch. BRAVO WASO, FISCH AND MAISKY!

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