The Rozhdestvensky Legacy
Hong Kong Cultural Center Concert Hall
10/23/2009 - & October 24*
Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op. 93
Sasha Rozhdestvensky (Violin)
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (Conductor)
On Thursday and Saturday evenings, Hong Kong audience was lucky enough to witness a legendary Maestro performing on the stage of Cultural Center. The 78-year-old Russian conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, together with his son Sasha, brought a truly unforgettable evening to all the attendees.
In the first half, they chose Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, a piece performed and recorded extensively by Gennadi throughout his musical career. His recording with David Oistrakh in the 1960s was widely regarded as one of the representative readings of this repertoire. Gennadi Rozhdestvensky’s interpretation on Saturday’s concert was idiosyncratic. One would be surprised by merely knowing the duration of the performance – the piece, usually performed within 45 minutes, was rendered for nearly one hour, with the second movement lasted for 13 minutes. However, under Maestro Rozhdestvensky’s baton, the sluggish pace could be so full of emotional experience and tension that it would never sound too slow; yet another conductor, playing at the same tempo, could sound terribly boring. This gave the music an extra sense of majesty and solemnity, the features that can rarely found in other versions. The three movements telling exemplified Maestro Rozhdestvensky’s unfathomable understanding to every note on the score.
Sasha Rozhdestvensky, in comparison, sounded a little aberrantat at this tempo. The extremely dragging pace was an immense challenge to this youthful violinist. At some moments, his impatience made his collaboration with the orchestra deviant. There was also occasional technical indiscretions at virtuosic passages, such as the scurrying double stops near the end of the third movement. Overall, his tone was burnished and his articulation was polished. But his lack of tonal warmth and depth made his sound not as much of ‘Russian’. Sasha adopted Russian contemporary composer Alfred Schnittke’s cadenzas in all three movements. These rarely performed cadenzas brought fresh sonority to Beethoven’s cliché, but the clashing chords and remote harmonies were not very Beethovenian indeed.
After the intermission, Maestro Rozhdestvensky made an exclusively Russian rendition –Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. Under his commanding baton, this bulky musical work was transformed into an orchestral showpiece with all the HKPO musicians playing in unity and control that execute Shostakovich’s every visceral excitement and sorrowful darkness convincingly. Although he used a huge force on the stage, it was this unity and control that produced a chamber scale intimacy in the opening movement. The lucid texture and refined balance were never beneath the music’s intricacy. Maestro Rozhdestvensky’s insightful reading of the score was realized thoroughly by the orchestra. In the second movement, for instance, Maestro Rozhdestvensky retained his supreme dignity by bringing to the surface the music’s innder intensity instead of its superficial exhilaration. The anxiety and tragedy in the third movement were also exceptionally gloomy.
The audience’s enthusiastic applause brought the veteran Maestro back to the stage for five times. Eventually he had to pull Concertmaster John Harding away from his seat to solve the climax in the concert hall. We are thankful to HKPO’s effort of bringing such a legendary musician in front of us.
Danny Kim-Nam Hui