November 6, 2006

Film score is fiddlers' showcase
Violinists' virtuosity shines with music from 'Red Violin'

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin returned to Virginia Commonwealth University on Saturday with an extraordinary showcase for virtuoso fiddlers from an American composer's film score.

Nine violinists and the principal cellist of the Russian ensemble, led by Misha Rachlevsky, played a lengthy suite from John Corigliano's film score for "The Red Violin" (whose redness has nothing to do with Russia, past or present).

While the full ensemble visits and revisits the score's main theme - a tune whose chaste passion touches the same place in the heart as Samuel Barber's Adagio for strings - one soloist after another steps forward for cameos that sound to be inspired by Paganini caprices, Bach partitas and other pages from the most technically challenging violin music.

The group made as strong an impression, more concisely, in an enlargement of Mendelssohn's Octet for strings.

Doubling each part from the original enhanced the richness of Mendelssohn's string writing without overly thickening it. The technical caliber and ensemble skills of these musicians assured that this music's speediest and most intricate passages come through intact.

The program, part of VCU's Rennolds Chamber Concerts series, opened with Rossini's Sonata in C major, one of the set of string sonatas the composer wrote early in his career.

Rachlevsky and his musicians caught the Mozartian echoes of the andante and pre-echoes of Rossini's opera scores in the theme-and-variations finale.