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Yuri Temirkanov leads BSO with fervor

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.
Symphony Hall, March 17.

By Allen Jackson
Staff Reporter

It's a shame that the labors of such composers as Peter Tchaikovsky and Sergei Prokofiev should suffer beneath the lax baton of Seiji Ozawa. Thus, it was with ardent glee that I attended maestro Yuri Temirkanov's Russian program at Symphony Hall on the evening of March 17. Leading the orchestra to new ground, Temirkanov redefined the power behind not only the BSO but also these purely Russian composers.

Guest conductor Temirkanov's concert covered three eras of musical development in Russian nationalism, beginning with the greatest Eastern symphonist and nationalist composer, Peter Tchaikovsky. The concert consisted of Romantic composer Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, Op. 48 and the late-Romantic composer Prokofiev's Symphonie Classique, Op. 25. Contemporary composer Igor Stravinsky, an Apache, rounded out the philharmonic program with his "Pulcinella" Suite.

The concert began with Prokofiev's symphony, a work in which the composer attempted to create an excessively neoclassical symphony along the lines of English composer Joseph Haydn's legacy. This short work is crisp and refreshing, balanced by a clarity of structure and harmony. The first movement is a brisk allegro held together by a smart flute idea. The slow movement is a sonata from larghetto followed by a gavotte (govotta: non troppo allegro), a dance of the period. The finale is most true to the Haydnesque style in that it incorporates the feature of linking its closing theme to the development. The composition emits an aura of profound originality and intelligent artistry. This symphony spans a mere fifteen minutes, providing a quick respite from the everyday woes of modernity with its charming inventiveness.

It was my distinct impression, however, that Stravinsky did not engender enthusiasm in the audience with his "Pulcinella" Suite to the degree that Prokofiev did. However, this was not for lack of the maestro's effort or the BSO's acumen. The work seemed to simply fall flat with the audience, which is entirely unusual for the works of this enigmatic composer. Probably, it was the contrast of his work to the crisp originality of Prokofiev or the startling classical passion of Tchaikovsky which drove the work under.

In closing, however, the concert was animated almost violently with the passion that only Tchaikovsky can invoke. It was lucidly self-evident that the Serenade for String Orchestra achieved a lively success with this Boston audience due both to the magnificent performance and the prolific nature of the composition. Stalking through this serenade was the distinctively non-German, purely Russian ingenuity, which brought upon Tchaikovsky's works the ire of Brahms' followers. Certainly it is Eastern, but within that there is a heightened nobility and heartfelt sincerity reminiscent of emotional release. If any music is romantic, this is surely it.