What is turning into the “usual suspects,” Valery Polyansky and the Russian Staatskapelle, performed Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis tonight.
The orchestra sounded muted tonight, like it was playing underneath a bowl. However, this may have had something to do with the fact that the place was sold out and I could not get tickets in the area that I have determined has the Tschaikowsky Hall’s best acoustics. Instead, I sat lower down in the more expensive seats with worse sound. I did not come to hear the orchestra anyway, but rather Polyansky’s fantastic chorus, which I continue to rely on for these large choral works. The chorus is not especially large, but it produces a big sound, filling the hall with clear diction and full notes. This chorus not only impresses during the larger moments, but also the softer ones, where it can support the soloists in producing graceful and delicate moods. Nowhere was this more important than during the Benedictus, when the chorus needed to back up fully (but without overwhelming) the four soloists and an aetherial violin solo.
Tonight’s soloists, Tatyana Fedotova, Lyudmila Kuznyetsova, Oleg Dolgov, and Aleksandr Kiselev made a well-balanced ensemble. Of them, the soprano, Fedotova, a soloist from Moscow’s Pokrovsky Chamber Opera, had the most pure and beautiful vocal instrument.
Incidentally, I remain at a loss for what to call this orchestra. The familiar German term, Staatskapelle, will have to continue to suffice. I have actually now found recordings with Polyansky and these forces, with the name translated into English as the “Russian State Symphony Orchestra.” However, that name is already taken by a completely different orchestra (an excellent one, but under the emotionless direction of Mark Gorenstein). That other one used to be the USSR State Symphony Orchesta, and the Staatskapelle used to be the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra. Apparently the Staatskapelle cannot find a good name for itself in English either, so now I do not feel so deficient.