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Armenian soloist, SinfoNova delight with joyful program

SINFONOVA

Conducted by Aram Gharabekian.

Suren Bagratuni, cello soloist.

Program of works by Mozart,

Haydn, Webern, and Strauss.

Event in The Tech Performing Arts Series.

Jordan Hall, January 27.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

[gfS]INFONOVA GAVE ONE OF ITS BEST ever showings last Saturday night, with three out of four of the orchestra's offerings showing real depth and insight. The opening work -- Mozart's Serenata Notturna -- proved to be the one failure of the evening, and is best quickly forgotten. The performance came across heavy, plodding and graceless, everything a Mozart serenade should not be.

But Haydn's Cello Concerto in D rapidly changed the mood: sunshine, humor and touches of pathos were to be found from both soloist and ensemble, and the two worked harmoniously as one.

Suren Bagratuni distinguished himself at the "Making Music Together" Soviet-American Cultural Exchange held in Boston in 1988. The Soviet Armenian-born cellist won the Silver Medal in the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition and the First Prize and Special Chamber Music Prize of the 1988 Vittorio Gui International Competition in Florence. The richness of his tone and inventiveness of his playing easily explain why.

Bagratuni delighted the audience last Saturday night not only with his fine sense of legato and delicate, detailed playing -- the subtlety of his coloration in the Adagio was particularly evocative -- but with his bubbling sense of wit in the outer movements. He kept the audience's ears on their toes throughout this well-known work.

SinfoNova, meanwhile, provided a sensitive accompaniment, supple string playing rising to support and meld with Bagratuni's solo work. Gharabekian caught just the right pace: flowing and joyous, yet cohesive.

Despite Bagratuni's enormous success with the Haydn, he was in somewhat somber mood at the post-concert reception due to having played on what he referred to as a "second-class instrument." As a reward for his success in the Tchaikovsky Competition, Bagratuni had been provided with a Stradivarius cello by the Soviet government (in the Soviet Union, almost all high-quality soloists' instruments are government-owned and loaned to individual musicians) but, just 15 days before his scheduled appearance in Boston had been required to turn it in, without explanation. An inferior instrument was provided in its place. Given Bagratuni's unusual talent and his inability to obtain an instrument he is happy with other than through the government, it is to be hoped that the authorities will quickly return his Stradivarius.

Aram Gharabekian led his band into the second half of the concert with an incisive performance of Webern's Five Movements, Op. 5. Gharabekian found impressions of tension, but also of quiet and stillness in these remarkable works, making them completely involving. Concertmaster Tison Street's solo work was particularly notable here.

Strauss's Metamorphosen, a study for 23 strings, ended the evening and showed Gharabekian at his most enraptured. This is an intimate work and each player introduced a personal touch; it is also, however, a dynamic work -- in many ways it can be said to be about movement -- and the sense of waves of music being crafted and projected into the audience was invigorating. A wonderful evening for SinfoNova.