Russians Disappoint

Alice Sara Ott

By ANDREW POWELL
Published: February 14, 2015

MUNICH — After four straight days on the road, the Russian National Orchestra looked decidedly bushed for its Jan. 26 MünchenMusik concert at the Gasteig: not the smartest way to play this demanding city. The all-Tchaikovsky program emerged tired-sounding, also somewhat stale interpretively, despite conductor Mikhail Pletnev’s manifest structural command. Soloist Alice Sara Ott (pictured) didn’t help. Barefoot yet short on poetry, she traced the composer’s First Piano Concerto (1875) without much sense of line or coherence, proving least ineffectual in the fuoco of its third movement, but there not always precise. Pletnev accompanied too carefully to offset these weaknesses with exciting orchestral volleys. An apathetic solo cello, along with often blaring flutes and oboes, only worsened results. The Fifth Symphony (1888) after the break unfolded at slightly slower tempos than this conductor took for a recording twenty years ago, though still keenly lyrical and with unswerving construction of climaxes. From the nape of his neck down to his heels, Pletnev modeled calm and composure, no matter the musical agonies underway, but his admirable grasp of long phrases and phrase relationships suffered erratic woodwind execution and soulless strings.

Photo © Marie Staggat

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