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Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra Review- An Ambitious, Fully Realized Concert

By Debra Davy

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The Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Vladimir Spivakov with soprano soloist Hibla Gerzmava, and Israeli cellist Danielle Akta, gave a stellar concert June 4th at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, Chicago. The orchestra, often called “first-class string performers” returned to Chicago as part of their North American tour. Spivakov, a prominent conductor and violinist, has led the orchestra since 1979.


 The program, reproduced below, consisted of international opera hits, famous arias and classical favorites. Gerzmava, with a fine range and impassioned spirit, gave her all in a rich pure soprano; it is easy to see why she is an international prize-winning favorite.  Akta, called “a star of the future”, performed a pair of 19th century works, “Kol Nidrei” and “Concert Polonaise”, with confidence and aplomb. The orchestra shone in the Mozart and Shostakovich pieces.

Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra with Vladimir Spivakov; photo courtesy of the orchestra

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Divertimento”, a compact 3-movement piece, has a lively opening, a charming and lyrical central Andante and a strong compelling final Presto. It was played with invention and virtuosity.


Dmitri Shostakovich’s Op. 110, the most loved and oft performed of all his quartets, was later arranged for string orchestra by Rudolph Barshai as Chamber Symphony Op. 110a. Composed in 5 closely related movements, it is a gravity-filled and moody piece, clearly inspired, many say, by anguish. However, the genesis and meaning have been much debated- is it about the destruction of his homeland or autobiographical? A fiercely emotional and unsettling piece, containing a “Jewish theme” some feel is a reference to the Holocaust, it is elegiac and moving in the extreme. Performed with a wealth of feeling, it filled the hall with emotion.


Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei”, a composition for cello and orchestra, is a famous series of variations on 2 main themes of Jewish origin. (Indeed, the “Kol Nidre” prayer is recited during the evening service on Yom Kippur). The melody is rich, haunting and deeply evocative, Bruch’s most frequently performed piece; the MCVO was spellbinding.


With barely a pause, the immersed and very talented young cellist played the “Concert Polonnaise” by David Popper, a lively and lilting comeuppance, the orchestra impeccable, the soloist rapt.

Cellist Danielle Akta; photo courtesy of the artist

After the intermission, the orchestra, with horns and woodwinds added, performed Edvard Grieg’s “Two Elegiac Melodies” attacca, both lyrically lovely and stirring pieces that showcased their virtuosity.

“Casta diva”, an aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera “Norma” is rightly “considered one of the most challenging roles in the repertory”. It requires a voice- like Gerzmava’s- that is powerful and wide-ranging. The music has a very long melodic line with distinctive bel canto decorative features.


“I Masnadieri”, (The Bandits) is an opera by Giuseppe Verdi in 4 acts, not often performed, with a libretto by Andrea Maffei.  The part of Amalia was famously sung by soprano Jenny Lind in the premiere in 1847; it was noted by one critic that her voice caused Verdi to write “tinsel-like” music. Gerzmava's performance of "Stretto" for Amalia was open, clear, intense.


 "Ecco... lo son l’umile ancella”, from “Adriana Lecouvreur” by Francesco Cilea is considered to be an exceptional solo moment for lyric/dramatic sopranos due to it’s “soaring” melody and opportunity for drama; Gerzmava, never melodramatic, filled Orchestra Hall with passion.

Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Vladimir Spivakov performing with the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra; photo courtesy of the orchestra

The soprano briefly left the stage with gift bags and flowers for the orchestra to perform Friedrich Gulda’s “Hymn to Beauty”, which harked back to the Shostakovich, a brief, haunting dark work.


Francis Poulenc’s song “Les chemins de l’amour”, with its delicious waltz setting found the soprano persuasive and delightful. Gerzmava flirted prettily and kissed her hand to the first violinist/concertmaster during Ernesto De Curtis’ “Ti voglio tanto bene”.

In encore, Gerzmava gave a sweet and full-throated “O mio babbino caro” from Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Gianni Schicchi”. This is an aria that is irresistibly beautiful; the audience recognized it from the first blissful notes and applauded heartily.


Finally, Spivakov picked up the violin and accompanied Gerzmava in Richard Strauss’ “Morgen” from “Four Last Songs”. He gave a confident and shining performance; she sang a still and poised account in this brief, delightful piece that sent the audience away fulfilled from this very ambitious and fully realized concert.


Soprano Hibla Gerzmava; photo courtesy of the artist

Program of works and solo performers:

Mozart “Divertimento No.1 in D major”, K.136

Shostakovich “Chamber Symphony in C minor”, Op. 110a, a dedication “To the Memory of Victims of Fascism and War”

Bruch “Kol Nidrei “, Op. 47 for cello and orchestra

Popper “Concert Polonaise”, Op.14 for cello and orchestra 
Soloist: Danielle Akta, (Israel), cellist, grant holder of the Vladimir Spivakov International Charity Foundation, prize winner of international competitions

Grieg “Two Elegiac Melodies”, Op.34

1. “The Wounded Heart” (Hjertesår)

2. “The Last Spring” (Våren)

Bellini "Casta Diva" from the opera “Norma”

Verdi "Stretto" of Amalia from the opera “Masnadieri”

Cilea "Ecco...Io son l'umile ancella" from the opera “Adriana Lecouvreur”
Soloist: Hibla Gerzmava, soprano

Gulda “Hymn to Beauty”

Poulenc "Les Chemins de l'amour"

De Curtis "Ti voglio tanto bene"
Soloist: Hibla Gerzmava, soprano

 In Encore:

Puccinni “O mio babbino caro” from the opera “Gianni Schicchi”

Soloist: Hibla Gerzmava, soprano

R.Strauss “Morgen” from “Four Last Songs”

Solo Violin: Viktor Spivakov

Soloist: Hibla Gerzmava, soprano

Spivakov with violin with Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra; photo courtesy of the orchestra


 For information and tickets to all the superb programing by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, go to the CSO website






Published on Jun 06, 2017

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