Tag Archives: Aleksei Kiseliov

Live music in Perth

Perth Concert Hall is setting the pace for the return of music performances before a live audience with four lunchtime concerts next week.

The diverse programme of recitals begins on Tuesday with mezzo-soprano Jess Dandy – one of the featured soloists in the venue’s Easter St Matthew Passion by Dunedin Consort – accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau.

Perth-raised pianist Alasdair Beatson, who recently partnered cellist Aleksei Kiseliov in an online RSNO concert, leads a piano trio in the music of Faure and Haydn the following day and saxophonist Jess Gillam plays the music of Meredith Monk, Kurt Weill, Graeme Fitkin and Astor Piazzolla on Thursday.

The sequence concludes on Friday May 28 when percussionist Colin Currie is at the marimba and Huw Watkins at the piano to play Helen Grime, Joe Duddell and Tansy Davies.

The recitals will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 as part of its Scotland Week, but crucially there are also 100 tickets available for music-lovers to attend them in person,  the first in-person concerts in the venue in over a year.

Tickets are priced at £11.50 each, including booking fee. www.horsecross.co.uk

RSNO Chamber: Cello Jewels

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

This showcase for the RSNO’s principal cello Aleksei Kiseliov – in the no less significant company of pianist Alasdair Beatson – is as superb an example of online chamber music in this time-of-the-virus as you will find anywhere. Even the slightly cheesy title that it has been given seems fitting by its end.

As Kiseliov makes clear in the first of his wonderfully lucid and well-expressed spoken additions to the film, it is a carefully considered product of this era. The two musicians had the luxury of proper rehearsal time together to prepare in the venue where they would perform, but the performance itself is presented “as live” with no edits at all. The camera-work is unfussy but brings the listener closer to the players, while the sound, captured by BBC Radio 3 for future broadcast, is very much of a live event, the microphones not too close to the instruments and the ambient acoustic very much part of the experience.

The programme itself is quite brilliantly constructed and thought through, the story it tells being one of the cello and its virtuosi and the composers who knew them and wrote for them.

Mozart must not have had a particularly close cellist associate, because there is nothing from him for the cello soloist, but Beethoven made up for that with his 12 variations on one of Papageno’s songs from The Magic Flute, Ein Madchen ober Weibchen, for cello and piano. This is the young Beethoven at his lighter, show-off, best (even on the minor-key variations), although arguably it is the piano that has the more sparkling music.

The composer’s Cello Sonata No 5, from 17 years later, is a work of challenging complexity by comparison. Its dedicatee, and Beethoven’s sometime patron, Countess Anna Marie von Erdody, must have been a very fine pianist to partner Schuppanzigh Quartet cellist Joseph Linke for its first performance. Kiseliov and Beatson are an exemplary partnership here, the skipping phrases in the central Adagio answering the piano with perfect poise, and the transition into the Allegro finale simply glorious.

Following that with Richard Strauss’s Cello Sonata in F from 1883 is inspired on many levels, even if the work was entirely new to Kiseliov. The 19-year-old Strauss is audibly still under the influence of Beethoven – as well as Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn – but there are also pre-echoes of his tone poems and the solos for cello in those orchestral works. And in the operatic “singing material” for the instrument that Kiseliov identifies in his introduction, there is a clear link with the work that opens the programme.

The Sonata was written for Strauss’s friend, the Czech cellist Hanus Wihan, then working in Munich, who was also a chum of Antonin Dvorak and dedicatee of his 1894 Cello Concerto, a cornerstone of the orchestral repertoire for the instrument. The short piece sometimes played as an encore to that work, Dvorak’s Waldesruhe, brings this recital to a close. It is the ideal conclusion to the concert’s narrative, and an excellent excuse to hear it in the piano and cello arrangement, with both Beatson and Kiseliov taking the opportunity to fully explore its lyrical charm.

Keith Bruce 

Available to view via www.rsno.org.uk

RSNO: Meister / Gough

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

Lurking beneath the high-level collective performance prowess of most orchestras is a surprising plethora of subsidiary individual accomplishments. Among RSNO players of recent years, for instance, there has been a novelist, a Magic Circle magician and two church organ builders. Not surprisingly, there have also been composers, one early example (1900-1904) being a certain second trombonist, Gustav Holst.

The latest compositional voice to emerge from the RSNO ranks is its current principal horn, Christopher Gough. He spent most of last year studying abroad on sabbatical for a masters degree in scoring for film, television and video games at the Berklee College of Music Valencia, winning an Outstanding Scholar Award for his troubles, despite the interruptions caused by the pandemic.

It’s clear, from the world premiere of his Three Belarusian Folk Songs – performed in the RSNO’s most recent digital concert and featuring its dedicatee, principal cellist Aleksei Kiseliov, as soloist – that Gough has an instinctive penchant for this particular idiom. Cast in three movements, with a language drawing freely on recognisable influences, cleverly assimilated and recast to serve his own expressive purposes (think John Williams), here is a craftsman who naturally understands the orchestral palate and its ability to express profound thoughts in vital, communicative terms.

On the surface are the three folk tunes successively defining each movement and forming the basis of the solo cello’s rhapsodic discourse, its mood supported and expanded upon by the surrounding strings and percussion. Kiseliov – who performed extensively as a young Russian soloist in Belarus – offers what seems a wholly natural affinity for their beguiling traditional intonations, sometimes weepingly plaintive, at other times dazzlingly rustic.

Gough pulls on a menagerie of musical references, from febrile Bartok and sumptuously dense Vaughan Williams to chiming percussive frissons reminiscent of, say, Lutoslawski or Orff, all craftily woven and ultimately serving their purpose in illuminating the real message of the work, a reflective, soulful response to the oppressive political situation in Belarus. 

Kiseliov’s performance was breathtakingly moving. Gough’s other RSNO colleagues, working under conductor Cornelius Meister (replacing the absent Thomas Sondergard), also did him proud. It will be interesting to see where he goes now with his compositional aspirations.

Where this work signalled the launch of the RSNO’s occasional Scotch Snap series (music by Scots composers), this programme, in opening with Krzysztof Penderecki’s evocative Adagio for Strings, also marked the first in this season’s Polska Scotland series, celebrating 500 years of friendship between the two countries.

Re-crafted from his Third Symphony as a stand alone concert work in 2013, the Adagio is representative of the composer’s later style, a retrenchment away from the harsh modernism of his younger years to a more retrospective tonal language. Under Meister’s urging lead, the RSNO strings evoked its eerie aching serenity, a gauntness that harks back to Shostakovich.

Coming online on a day that Edinburgh was reeling from its thundersnow onslaught, Beethoven’s Symphony No 6, the Pastoral, which closed this programme, might have seemed like small change in meteorological terms. Meister’s view was very different, though, his answer being to apply pressurised containment as a means of heightening its protean narrative. 

The overall vision was sweeping and cohesive, within which lay a world of infinite contrast. The RSNO strings were expansive and as smooth as silk in the “Scene by the brook”; the “Thunderstorm” raged with unpredictable seismic ferocity; the “Shepherd’s Hymn” evoked reassuringly those final moments of peace and contentment.

Ken Walton
www.rsno.org.uk

Image: RSNO Principal Horn Christopher Gough