The concert last night was wonderful. They played an all Russian programme consisting of Glinka 's Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila, Arutiunian's Trumpet Concerto and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No, 2 in E Minor Op. 27 .
Ruslan and Lyudmila is an opera by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857) (widely regarded as the one of the forerunners of Russian national music) about two lovers whose fate, ruined by a wizard and a witch, were finally reunited through an arduous journey by the hero Ruslan to rescue her, with the help of two well-intentioned gods who were the enemies of forces of evil. It's a story based on a 1920 long poem of the same name by one of the greatest national poets of Russia, Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837),(the author of the serial verse novel Eugene Enegrin (1825-1827)). Lyudmila was twice abducted and had to be twice rescued. Like in other romantic tales, she fell into a deep sleep as the result of a spell and could be revived only by love, in the form of a magical ring by her lover. The opera has since 1841, become an evergreen of the Bolshoi Theatre, having been performed some 700 times in 9 different versions. It's lively and energetic overture, full of Russian melodic motifs and rhythms, has now become a piece which is often independently performed. .
The second piece of the evening is a beautiful trumpet concerto seldom heard in Hong Kong. it's written by an Armenian composer Alexander Grigori Arutiunian (1920-2012) (a contemporary of another famous Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian) whose works are often based on Armenian folk music. According to the programme notes, there are 7 continuous sections, with introduction, contrasting sections, cadenzas and a coda. Playing the trumpet for us is Sergei Nakariakov (b. 1977), a magician of the brass instrument who has delighted his audience since age 10. I don't know much about trumpet playing but from the way Nakariakov coaxed very rapid but not harsh staccato sounds and the way he was able to very subtly vary the sound of continuous notes from the trumpet in soft and simple passages, which are often the most difficult to play precisely because they are so simple and make them sound simple without being dull monotonous and lifeless, he must be one of the best classical trumpetists around in the world today. Although it's the first time I hear this trumpet concerto, I fell in love with it instantly. Last night will certainly not be the last time I hear it.
The final programme is another ever green of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)': his Symphony No.2 in E Minor Op. 27 in Largo--Allegro moderato, Scherzo--Allegro molto, Adagio and Finale in Allegro vivace, a symphony he first started in 1907 and completed early next year.He dedicated it to one of his teachers at the Moscow Conservatory Sergei Taneyev, a student of Nikolays Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky. I love the wistful melody of the first movement, full of a certain serene, nostalgic and haunting joy, as if one were savoring some particularly memorable episodes in one's youth, a melodic motif which has been used in many movies. But there is also another sad motif in the symphony, the so-called "Dies irae" motif forboding death which is repeated and beautifully integrated into various parts of the symphony. Pletnev is excellent. So is the RNO, particularly their wind sections. As encore, Pletnev gave us another lively piece full of Russian sentiments and rhythms. I wonder what its name is. Interesting detective work after the concert.