An all-Russian music rush
Iimori wields a magic baton for a pulse-pounding program
WHAT MAKES a glorious cinematic experience? Think "Gone with the Wind," "Psycho," "Doctor Zhivago" or even the more recent "Run Lola Run." When the power of music matches the intensity of the images and the plot, we have a winner. Sergei Eisenstein's "Alexander Nevsky" (1938) is one of the earliest movies excelling in that combination.
When: 4 p.m. today
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $22 to $73
Call: 792-2000 or Ticketmaster, (877) 750-4400
Friday night provided a taste of how the colossal visuals of "Alexander Nevsky" can match Sergei Prokofiev's rousing choruses and blasting sounds. After seeing on a big screen the most glorious part of the movie about the Russian hero (the battle scene), we heard the Honolulu Symphony and Chorus, led by Norichika Iimori, and mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore perform Prokofiev's music.
The control, skills and enthusiasm that conductor Iimori exuded throughout the concert was impressive. He made all sections of the orchestra vibrate under his baton through his high-caliber inter- pretation of Prokofiev's score -- the composer's concert rendition structured as a cantata. The music, at times heavy on brass and percussion (including woodblocks, chimes, bells and cymbals), reached its most poignant climax with Lattimore's lament in the sixth movement.
Her deep and full voice singing about loss and death of war heroes shifted the music into a meditative atmosphere. Her words, "Here lies one felled by a wild saber; there lies one impaled by an arrow" are stirring for their actuality, even though written more than a half century ago.
In the second section the chorus sang the memorable "Song About Alexander Nevsky," a melody hard to forget. It would have been a more exhilarating experience if the men of the chorus had volume power equal or even stronger than the orchestra. But director Karen Kennedy made sure they sang well in Russian with confidence and sentiment.
ANOTHER exciting feature of this concert was its all-Russian program. As with good chocolate, after one Russian masterpiece we need another. The first part of the concert started it all. Modest Mussorgsky's "A Night on Bald Mountain" (1867) and Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for String Orchestra in C Major" introduced the passionate atmosphere.
The interpretation of Tchaikovsky's piece was particularly remarkable. It is a beautiful work that entails open sonorities, sophisticated nuances in the dynamics, full-bodied sounds, and romantic lyricism, all wrapped in a unique joyfulness. The symphony's strings gave us all of that, playing with great competence the rich choral-like theme that begins and concludes the work, and taking the audience on a full emotional journey with the inner movements.
Iimori "lived" the music and seemed to magically inflate and deflate the pulse of the orchestra. The great program and the outstanding performance completely deserved the audience's standing ovation.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.