Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Teatro San Carlo - Tchaikovsky & Beethoven- 06/22/24

Piotr Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major, Op. 60 
Conductor: Dmitry Matvienko 
Violin: Sergej Krylov 

Although my most recent visit to Naples’ Teatro San Carlo had been unusual in many unexpected ways last month, I nevertheless decided to get right back on the horse with one more performance before heading up North for the summer (Considering that the thermometer repeatedly hit 35 degrees Celsius last week, it definitely seems that like the only way to survive the next few months is up). 
My main motivation for this last concert in the Parthenopean City was the presence of Greek violinist extraordinaire Leonidas Kavakos, who would tackle, among other delectable treats, Maurice Ravel’s dazzling Tzigane. I have been fortunate enough to get to enjoy his ravishing talent countless times in the past couple of decades, and I was very much looking forward to hearing him again, this time with my friend Vittorio in the San Carlo’s stupendous setting. 
That's why I could not but feel awfully let down when, last Friday afternoon, I received an email from the venue informing me that the star of the show would regretfully not be there the following evening for health reasons (And to think I was willing to put up with Saturday night’s crowds for him!), and that Russian and Italian violinist and conductor Sergej Krylov would be filling in with Tchaikovsky’s perennially compelling violin concerto. 
So, after a labor-intensive day, a long wait for the subway train, an uninspired sfogiatella, and a message from Vittorio informing me that he would be late from visiting his brother in the hospital, I took my seat in the third row of the orchestra section (One cannot be too picky with half-price tickets) of the crowded theater dearly hoping for a much-needed little pick-me-up. 

And then, lo and behold, the Orchestra del San Carlo and Sergej Krylov totally came through for me. Sure, I was still reeling about Kavakos’ absence, but I also had to admit that international music man Sergej Krylov, who was born in Moscow, studied in Cremona, and these days wears the two hats of music director of the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and professor at the Lugano Conservatory, not to mention a bit of moonlighting on the side, was an exciting discovery. 
Although I typically think that I do not really need to hear the Tchaikovsky violin concerto yet one more time, every time I come across it, I am still immediately pulled into its captivating beauty, intense romanticism and infectious exuberance, from its deceptively understated opening notes to its unabashedly explosive fireworks. It is truly a gift that keeps on giving. In my experience, it is the only work that never fails to prompt spontaneous clapping after the brilliantly convoluted first movement, and in this case, I must confess that I almost consider it justified. 
Sunday’s performance was no exception, and the vigorous applause was gamely acknowledged by the performers. Fact is, there was much to be appreciative for, including the passionate lyricism and intricate details that Krylov brought out of the composition with the ease and commitment of the child prodigy that he once was. The orchestra dutifully kept up pace under the baton of young but highly determined Dmitry Matvienko, who completed a memorable composer-soloist-maestro trio that convincingly reminded us of all the good that can come out of Russia. 

The audience having broken into a deafening ovation, Krylov came back with another sure-fire crowd-pleaser in Paganini’s irresistible Capriccio No. 24. And, let’s face it, while the Tchaikovsky had been a resounding success, the relentlessly virtuosic ride that was the Paganini ended up being an even more thrilling experience. Seriously. And we were not done, as Krylov came back for one more party favor, unknown and more subdued, that gently brought us all back to reality. 

After intermission and the arrival of Vittorio, who fortunately had only missed the first few minutes of the Tchaikovsky concerto, we happily moved on to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. Book-ended by his popular third symphony, the mighty Eroica, and his even more popular fifth symphony, the one opening with the famous pom-pom-pom-pom earworm, the fourth one does not always get all the attention that it deserves, and it deserves plenty indeed, as was clearly pointed out to us on Saturday evening. 
Although it contains its fair share of creativity and complexity, the rather traditional composition mostly stands out for showing Beethoven at his most sunny and cheerful, not unlike the city of Naples, where we were all wrapping up our first summer weekend with, in fact, abundant sunshine and, as it were, a healthy dose of Tchaikovsky-induced cheerfulness. 
And what if this lighter fare neither broke any new ground nor made any strong statement? As performed by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic orchestra last Saturday, it brought pure, unadulterated joy to the entire audience, especially when a few zealous concert etiquette gatekeepers detected tentative applause after the first movement and quickly nipped it in the bud, providing the rest of us with a smooth and satisfying end to the concert and, incidentally, to my 2023-24 music season.

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