Pianist takes audience and MSO on a 'Passage to Russia'

October 17, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra embarked on its 23rd season of MasterWorks concerts at The Maryland Theatre Saturday night.

The performance was the beginning of a year of musical travels, and "Passage to Russia" was the first leg of the journey.

The program featured music by Russian composers, and the orchestra and the nearly full-house audience had a guide in 25-year-old pianist Vassily Primakov.

He was in Hagerstown to perform the evening's second selection, Sergei Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto.

Seat belts might not have been a bad idea.

Before the concert, Music Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze welcomed the 25-year-old pianist to Prelude,

She asked Primakov about his approach to the concerto.

"In general, playing Rachmaninoff is always a challenge," he said.

Pianists complain a lot about Rachmaninoff, Primakov said, but he called getting it right the most rewarding experience. "It just lifts you up to I don't know where," he said.


"Every time I play this piece, it takes on a new meaning," Primakov said. "It's so unbelievably emotional and beautiful. It's hard to put into words what I feel and think."

He spoke with his playing - his hands, his posture, his facial expression. He crouched, he leaned back. He hammered the keys, he caressed them.

"Very good. Wonderful," said Denis Rocco of Hagerstown as intermission began.

"Lovely, very good," Lena Jurand said.

Before the concert, Jurand said she was looking forward to hearing the Rachmaninoff, a concerto she had played in Poland, where she was a conservatory student before she came to the United States in 1944.

She wasn't surprised by the quality of Primakov's performance.

"I would have expected that of somebody who comes out of Russia as a concert pianist," she added.

The audience agreed, immediately rising to give Primakov and the orchestra a warm and prolonged standing ovation.

The evening had opened with "Kikimora," a tone poem by Anatol Liadov. During Prelude, Schulze had explained that Kikimora was a wraith-like witch raised by a sorceress, educated by a cat. She called the piece "Halloween-y I gotcha music."

"I knew I heard a cat in there," said Jan Rinehart of Hagerstown at the Liadov's end.

The program's final selection was Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4

The orchestra and Primakov will perform the MasterWorks I program again today. The concert begins at 3 p.m.

Primakov won't mind.

"The more I play it, the more I love it," he said.

If you go

What: Maryland Symphony Orchestra MasterWorks I: "Passage to Russia" with Vassily Primakov

When: Today, 3 p.m.

Where: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

Prelude, a talk about the program's composers and music, begins at 2 p.m. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.

Season ticket packages range from $49 to $260. Individual concert tickets cost between $10 and $65. Tickets are available at the MSO office at 13 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown, online at or by calling 301-797-4000. Tickets also are available at The Maryland Theatre. Service charges apply.

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