"Virtuoso"only begins to describe the outstanding performance yesterday afternoon of Vladimir Krainev, piano soloist appearing with the Moscow Virtuosi at the Kennedy Center.
The work was Shostakovich's Concerto No. 1 in C Minor for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Op. 35. Really a piano concerto (the trumpet, expertly played by American guest artist Stephen Burns, added mostly color and a few biting riffs), it is full of seriocomic episodes. Every sad melody is interrupted by a comic sting, and pathos or hysteria lurks at the edge of every humorous passage. The piano part is dense and awkward -- full of sparkling octaves and seemingly impossible leaps. Krainev handled it with apparently effortless abandon.
In Bach's Concerto in D Minor for Oboe, Violin and Strings (BWV 1060), with violinist Vladimir Spivakov (the group's excellent conductor) and oboist Alexei Utkin, the ensemble combined the clean tempos and terraced dynamics of traditional baroque with subtle phrasing and a romantically rich, deliciously deep string sound.
Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, Op. 48, which closed the program, was equally magnificent. The 19 string players of the Moscow Virtuosi have a sound that would put many full orchestras to shame, and under conductor Spivakov are an impressive and dramatically unified ensemble.