My festival started with a bang!! And probably started the way it should have ended, in absolute mind blowing, soul filling superlatives!
Translation: I experienced my first live “song evening”! And it was to be a memorable one, by the hand of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and in Russian no less! I say if you decide to do something new, do it properly!
Usher Hall was packed but one cannot say it was dressed for the evening… It looked more like a bombed place where big holes in the walls were hidden behind wooden panels. However, it is still a miracle they are able to hold concerts there at all considering that just a few days ago the place was totally uninhabitable.
In the middle of a song we also heard a loud bang, which could be either of – the first set of firework at this year’s Military tattoo or the workers dropping some boxes 3 floors down. Hvorostovsky reckoned the roof didn’t tremble too much during the evening 😉
Considering that my vocabulary in Russian is reduced to “vodka” , which I don’t like, and “spasiva” which probably sounds like everything else but thanks, I was quite apprehensive about enjoying the evening. So in order to prevent linguistic frustration I did my homework and read all possible translations of what would be the program of the night; some I did not find at all but I armed myself with trust in the wonderful performer which I had first heard in a ROH Traviata.
But I found that homework wasn’t necessary, because the artist translated with his voice, tone, gestures and gazes all you would ever need to know about Russian. It did give me however the freedom to ignore the program pages in my lap and tie my eyes to Dmitri. Some would think that “fun” is not the right word for describing an evening of Russian songs, but it is exactly what I experienced. They are often depicted as being an endless road to depression, but I found them much more intense and multifaceted than that. Yes there is winter cold, and sadness about lives’ struggle, there is hope of end and fear of betrayal but there is so much more and so much more powerful. And with such a passionate and consummate performer the songs grew to impressive dimensions. Even if you didn’t understand the word, you saw the sadness in his eyes, you heard the suffering in his tone, you saw the rage and frustration in his hand. And you heard sarcasm flow from his lips, just as you saw them curb in the most lender of smiles.
It is a true artist’s achievement to spellbind an audience of thousands in a foreign language with just your voice and a piano. Gradually people forgot about their programs and just listened to Dmitri tell us wonderful stories. There was a strong connection there, a dialogue of smiles, eyes and ears, which thankfully survived even the constant interruptions of applause after each song. It became more relaxed and familiar than such evening might be, but I don’t think it lost any of the intensity of the performance.
For more details on the program of the evening please see intermezzo! I felt that I had little to tell about the songs after this, but I decided that it gave me such an unforgettable experience and such pleasure that I had to say thanks once again to Dmitri and Ivari Ilja, who so sensitively and finely accompanied the songs with his piano.
I liked all songs, the sad ones, the melancholic ones, the furious ones and the merry ones, but above all the ironic ones. Watching Dmitri sing Tchaikosvky’s Pimpinella is just pure fun!!!
And he has the most amazing technique and endless breath, guaranteed to make the audience’s jaws drop to the floor where they stayed for pretty much of the evening 😉 My only slight disappointment was not hearing Goethe’s “GlucklicheFahrt” and “Uber alle Gipfeln ” in original, but Medtner’s music and Dmitri’s singing fully compensated for that.
Dmitri was also dressed for the part, all black silk and flowing lines around his shoulders and arms which made his movements even more gracious.
This was and evening of pure, refined Russian passion to die for!
And for me one of many many more song evening to follow, whatever the language.
Watch out for the repeat later this year at the Barbican and on the 15th on BBC for the broadcast of the evening in Edinburgh.
Here is a small taster of an older version of PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY “In the Midst of the Ball,” Op. 38, No. 3
Thanks for the video dokoleg1
For further reviews please see the Scotsman and the Herald