A mighty man, this Yuri Temirkanov. He proved it last month, when he brought his
own Leningrad Philharmonic to the Music Center and had it jumping through
hoops. He proved it again on Friday afternoon with the Los Angeles
Philharmonic, in the first of a two-program appearance as guest conductor.
As with the Leningrad, Friday’s program had been planned as all-Russian, but
Aaron Copland’s “Quiet City,” played to honor the late composer, was a
welcome substitution for a piece of Rimsky-Korsakov fluff. The gods move
strangely to bestow their favors.
Temirkanov is great fun to watch. He hurls himself around in the grand, old-
fashioned manner, with an occasional “how’m I doing?” look over his shoulder.
Some may find it all excessive, but even the naysayers can’t help but notice
Temirkanov’s galvanizing effect on the orchestra. Like Kurt Sanderling, but in
an entirely different way, he gets the players to give their best.
Nobody can really have wanted to hear Rachmaninov’s “Symphonic Dances,” the
big orchestral work that ended the program. But nobody could have expected the
music to gleam forth, in a grand burst of extroverted energy, as it did under
Arguably, this late work from Rachmaninov’s pen, with its occasional
interesting flicker of sinister, sardonic harmony and even a quote from the
“Day of Wrath” liturgical chant at the end, hangs together more cohesively
than some of his orchestral flapdoodle, but that isn’t saying much. That
Temirkanov found the impulse to make the music into a thrilling orchestral romp
is, however, saying much for the conductor’s skills.
Karine Georgian, 1966 gold medalist in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Competition, was
the splendid soloist in the Second Cello Concerto of Shostakovich: glistening,
sinister music wondrously played. Perhaps the First Concerto has more emotional
depth, but this work of 1966 is, all the way, a startling sound exercise. Most
interesting of all is the strange clickety-clack for percussion right at the
end, a curious anticipation of the 15th Symphony of six years later. Its quiet,
inward solo writing has few rewards for a mere virtuoso. Karine Georgian, who
has given much of her time to the new music of her Soviet countryman, brought
to the work the intelligence and imagination it requires. She is clearly a
major artist, here for the first time.
Later this week the flamboyant Temirkanov ends his visit by conducting Mahler’s
equally flamboyant Second Symphony, one of his few ventures here into non-
Russian repertory. Can’t you just taste it?

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