My final concert in the Moscow Conservatory. I tried desperately to get tickets for another concert a week later, but those were impossible to come by in a typically Russian sort of way (officially they had been on sale for a month, but the box office claimed to know nothing and calling “upstairs” also produced no information). So this was it.
This concert was a bait-and-switch. It was supposed to conclude with Mahler’s 5th, but a couple of days ago new posters went up showing Beethoven’s 6th. The pre-printed programs still indicated Mahler. No idea what caused the late change and will not speculate.
The concert opened with Mozart, in the form of the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro and the Piano Concerto #20. The Moscow Symphony Orchestra under the Dutchman Arthur Arnold, the Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor, kept things light. At the keyboard, Nikita Mndoyants, a 22-year-old recent graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, showed proficiency. In this hall, it is easy to let the notes waft out over the audience. Of course, it is also easy to hear any errors. What we got was a solid performance, with a nice blend of orchestra and piano. While nothing special, the performance was clean and clear.
For the Beethoven, Arnold took a more robust approach. The strings may have taken it too far, producing a strong tone but lacking in fluidity. On the other hand, the woodwinds, given the opportunity by Beethoven to imitate birds, soared. The music swelled into the storm movement, and the finale emerged triumphant.
In all, a worthwhile evening spent in a wonderful hall with solid performances of beautiful music. I would not have minded staying another hour to hear the Mahler, although perhaps it was too much to ask of the orchestra.