Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava’s recital last night at Koerner Hall felt like stepping into something of a time warp. The diva sweeps on stage in a ginormous cape (all that was missing was Bach’s Toccata and Fugue). The first half of the programme is Russian art song (Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov) but there are no surtitles or translations or words of introduction which is a bit hard on non Russian speakers. There’s tumultuous applause after every damn song (and sometimes in the middle); accepted with gracious condescension and grand gestures. On the odd occasion the pianist is invited to accept applause she demurely takes three steps backward lest she should be seen to share the limelight. It’s all a bit like watching Lady Catherine de Bourgh accompanied by her talented but penniless niece. I have no idea whether this is the “real” Hibla Gerzmava or some sort of act that she or her promoters think the Russian diaspora expects but it felt very weird.
The Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and their conductor, Vladimir Spivakov, played Roy Thomson Hall last night. The first part of the concert was all instrumental and rather fine. I was struck by the small band’s ability to vary the weight and richness of their sound to match the mood of the music. Their treatment of Mozart’s Divertimento No.1, for example, was quite lean and sinewy. On the other hand the string sound, especially the cellos, was much richer in a very moving and idiomatic account of the Shostakovich Chamber Symphony in C minor. Things got even richer for Bruch’s Kol Nidrei where the orchestra was joined by 14 year old Israeli cellist Danielle Akta. The orchestral sound was sumptuous here but the real star was Ms. Akta. One expects virtuosity from the sort of young musician who tours with a major orchestra but one does not necessarily expect the kind of intensity that we got from Ms. Akta. She played as if she had the sort of life experience one would simply not wish on a young girl. Her instrument, an Orselli loaned by Dr. Moshe Kantor, was rather wonderful too. She can do virtuoso too as she showed in the Popper Concert Polonaise that closed a very satisfying first half.
Here’s a round up of news and announcements from my mail box.
April 8th, at Roy Thomson Hall at 8pm, Show One productions have a show with the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, soprano Hibla Gerzmava and cellist Daniella Akta in a varied program including Mozart’s Divertimento No.1 in D major, K. 136, Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in C minor Op. 110 and arias from Norma, I Masnadieri, and Adriana Lecouvreur.