Misha Maisky is a special personality among the great cellists of our time. Born in Latvia and now in his middle sixties, he is the only one that had instruction both from Gregor Piatigorsky and Mstislav Rostropovich, leading figures of yore. Great friend of Martha Argerich, he has given many concerts and made a recording of the complete Beethoven cello-piano sonatas with her. He has made 35 CDs, including three times the Bach cello suites.
He visited us a long time ago, and now he returned at the height of his fame. Not for a recital but with a chamber orchestra, the Tel Aviv Soloists under their founder Barak Tal. It was a presentation of Nuova Harmonia at the Colón. The fact that it´s a chamber, not a symphony orchestra, limits the choices to works that can be played with 29 instruments, thus eliminating all the famous Concerti.
The choices were: a short Tchaikovsky Nocturne, adapted by the composer from the fourth of his Six pieces op.19 for piano; "Kol Nidrei" by Max Bruch, which in the original is for cello and full orchestra, was played with less instruments (two horns, three trombones and harp were absent); and Haydn´s Concerto Nº1, Hob VIIb:1, in C.
The Nocturne is a lovely melody and Maisky showed that he can really sing with his cello. With his disheveled mane of grey hair and informal dress code,. Maisky doesn´t look like a classical artist, but he most certainly is. "Kol Nidrei" means "all vows", an Aramaic prayer sung on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and is an 188l score defined as an Adagio on Hebrew melodies. It´s a beautiful piece that lasts ten minutes and Maisky phrased it with great expression.
In the First Part, however, there were no fireworks and the music was slow. The splendid Haydn Concerto provided Allegro music and difficulties in the first and third movements, whilst leaving the middle Adagio for sensitive molding of melody. In the Allegros Maisky showed his flashy side, attacking wirth gusto and exaggerating the intensity in certain fragments, even risking some harshness, but never losing control.
The audience, which had been friendly but contained before, exploded with ovations and got three encores. The two final variations (slow and very fast) of Tchaikovsky´s "Rococo Variations" (with less orchestra than the original) again let us hear the contrast between his plangent and subtle slow playing and the exciting, almost frantic playing of the virtuosic bits. Again Tchaikovsky, his arrangement of the Andante cantabile from the First Quartet, one of his most memorable melodies, was another proof of Maisky´s empathy with the composer. And the slow middle movement of Haydn´s Concerto for violin in C, transcribed for cello, played with exquisite control of pianissimo. By the way, the artist suffered from heat, and often wiped dry his face.
Now to the Orchestra. Although the appellation "Soloists" hardly applies to an orchestra, some ensembles call themselves so, meaning that they play with great quality. The Zagreb Soloists did, but I feel that the Tel Aviv group doesn´t quite make the grade.
Founded in 2001 by Tal, it is a good, decent group of young musicians, with particularly proficient oboes and flutes, but, either because it is the taste of the director or that there is a lack of impulse in themselves, the strings are relegated, especially the first violins; and one bass isn´t enough, you need at least two. There are 16 strings plus 8 woodwinds, 4 brass, and tympani.
The purely orchestral scores on the programme were Mozart´s Symphony Nº 41, "Jupiter", and Prokofiev´s Symphony Nº 1, "Classical". Curiously in both cases I felt the same: low energy in the first two movements and a pickup in the last two. Surely there´s plenty of interesting content in the first movement of the "Jupiter" but it had no more than a lackluster reading this time; the Menuet was better, and the tour de force of counterpoint of the Finale emerged clean and positive. In the delightful Prokofiev opus, the Allegro start should be joyful and fresh, not tentative; the slow movement was correct. However, the Gavotte was rhythmically alive, and the exhilarating Finale took fire.
In their accompanying role, Tal and the players were closely attuned to Maisky´s phrasing and did a good job.
For Buenos Aires Herald