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MUSIC REVIEW : Orchestra Kremlin's Connection

October 20, 1995|TIMOTHY MANGAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A lot has been made in recent years of the aging of the classical music audience. It was more than a little interesting, then, to see the connection made between the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin and its sizable, largely student audience at USC's Bovard Auditorium Wednesday night.

No less than five encores were called for and played willingly and received with delight. What led up to this end was an impressive and serious display of musicianship. Founded in 1991 when a Swiss company approached conductor Misha Rachlevsky with an offer to record, the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin (of Moscow), on its first U.S. tour, proved to be a top-notch ensemble of 17 strings rehearsed to a glossy sheen.

Not only does the group boast a distinctive sound--produced with soft attacks, smooth bowings and delicately calibrated balances--but its interpretations also seem mapped out to the last viola tremolo.

The results, if somewhat lacking in spontaneity and emotional abandon, were consistently vital, Rachlevsky emerging as a meticulous, scrupulous and sensible musician.

The concert began with Rossini's youthful and inconsequential Sonata for Strings No. 5, which nevertheless amply highlighted the almost military discipline of the nine violins (all on the first part). Then came a carefully formed yet intense performance of Shostakovich's somber Chamber Symphony, Opus 110a, brilliantly coupled with (after a brief silence) Bach's Contrapunctus No. 1 from "The Art of the Fugue"--the sinewy counterpoint erasing centuries.

A sonorous and gracefully propulsive account of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings preceded the slew of encores: among them, some very clever variations on "Happy Birthday" by Claus-Dieter Ludwig and "Chanson Triste" by Kallinikov

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