March 1, 2000

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin plays with clarity, precision

Young musicians all superb in debut at Assembly Hall

The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, Misha Rachlevsky conducting, Tuesday, Feb. 29, 7:30 p.m., Assembly Hall, Temple Square, one performance only.

The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin is a young orchestra for a couple of reasons. One, it's been in existence only a few short years, and second, the average age of the musicians is 28.

However, founder and music director Misha Rachlevsky has done wonders with this new ensemble. The orchestra has a dozen recordings out, and it's becoming increasingly well-known outside of its native Russia.

Tuesday evening the orchestra, which is made up of 18 string players, debuted at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

It was apparent right from the start that this was no ordinary string orchestra. Rachlevsky chose his musicians well. The performers are all graduates from either the Moscow Conservatory or the Russian Academy of Music, and they were all superb. They played with clarity and precision, and their performances were carefully phrased and subtly nuanced. This is an orchestra that is definitely well on its way to becoming one of the brightest stars on the international music scene.

The concert opened with Elgar. s Serenade in E minor, op. 20, in a performance that was weighty but at the same time emphasized the work's lyricism.

The first movement is pensive and moody and decidedly Brahmsian in its emotional content. The finale is similar to the opening movement, although somewhat less moody and a bit more optimistic.

In between these two stands the "Larghetto," one of Elgar's loveliest creations. The gentle melodies in this serene movement flow peacefully along, and Rachlevsky got his orchestra to bring out the subtle shadings in this particularly wistful piece of music.

Sergei Prokofiev. s masterpiece in miniature form, "Visions Fugitives," op. 22, followed the Elgar. Originally written for solo piano, 15 of the original 20 miniatures were later scored for string orchestra by Rudolf Barshai.

These miniatures are indeed that. Lasting from about 20 to 60 seconds, they present fleeting glimpses of moods and thoughts, spanning the entire gamut of emotions. Humor is especially present here.

These are captivating little pieces that keep your attnetion - you never know what will come next. They are cleverly constructed by Prokofiev and effectively transferred to strings by Barshai.

Richard Strauss. hauntingly beautiful sextet from his opera "Capriccio" followed next. Written when Strauss was in his late 70s, it has the quiet resignation of his late works. But here, unlike his orchestral swan song, "Metamorphosen," there is still some defiance that runs throughout the score. It. s as if Strauss wants everyone to know that he is not yet quite finished with composing.

After a delightful performance of Rossini. s youthful String Sonata No. 1 in G major, written when the composer was only 12, Rachlevsky rewarded his audience for the standing ovation they gave him and his ensemble by playing two encores. The first was a charming interpretation of a Russian folk-song, and the second was a devilishly fast and sotto voce interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov. s "Flight of the Bumblebee."