Star rating: *****
Venue: Usher Hall
The music of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin is not generally heard as often as it warrants. To listen to his Symphony No 2 on Sunday evening, played by the Russian National Orchestra under Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits, was testimony to why it richly deserves to become better known.
Opening with a brooding Andante, Karabits paced the lengthy ferment of orchestral colour to build up layer upon layer into an intense and impassioned series of climactic peaks. Searing string tone gleamed in yearning lyricism, while brass shone triumphantly in glory as the piece reached its majestic conclusion.
That this is an orchestra capable of a big, bold sound, and perfectly suited to the Usher Hall’s symphonic acoustic, was never in doubt throughout the evening, but nowhere more so than in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1.
While soloist Denis Matsuev thundered up and down the keyboard in a gigantic chordal frenzy, Karabits’s clear direction of the score’s forward momentum kept the pot from boiling over.
Yet for all the vigour of the full orchestra, it is the haunting sounds of Valentin Silvestrov’s Elegy for Strings, pieced together from sketches by the conductor’s father, Ivan Karabits, that resonate especially enduringly.