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Center Stage: Community Concerts presents two outstanding Russian companies

By Staff | Mar 12, 2019

Marsha Wagner

Yes indeed, the Russians did come to two different performances at Community Concerts and blew the audiences away at both concerts! The first program presented was the Russian National Orchestra performing an all Rachmaninoff concert, featuring conductor Kirill Karabits and George Li, piano soloist. This memorable concert opened with one of Rachmaninoff’s shorter pieces, “Vocalize,” and then proceeded straight away to play one of the most beautiful and challenging piano concertos in the Rachmaninoff catalogue, “Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18.”

The 2015 Silver International Tchaikovsky Competition Medal Winner, Li possesses “an effortless grace, brilliant virtuosity and poised authority far beyond his years.” This 18-year-old virtuoso so thrilled the Community Concert’s audience that his standing ovation lasted a full five minutes – a record for Community Concerts – bringing us to intermission.

After which, the group led by Maestro Karabits showed us what makes the Russian National Orchestra so outstanding and powerful when it plays music by one of its national composers by playing Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances, Op. 45” like I have never heard it played before. I have listened to this symphony played many times by various outstanding orchestras, but I have never heard or felt the depth of this symphony till I heard it played by the Russian National Orchestra under the direction of Karabits. The audience’s reaction was immediate – a rousing standing ovation that blew the roof off the Barbara B. Mann theater – and the audience would not stop till this wondrous orchestra played an encore.

This performance will stay in my memory for a long time and showed me once again how music connects all people, regardless of color or nationality. Bravo and spasiba, Russian National Orchestra.

Community Concerts’ second offering on Feb. 25 was the Russian National Ballet Theatre performing Prokofiev’s “Cinderella.” This was the third time this somewhat, recently founded (late 1980s) company performed at Community Concerts. Artistic Director Elena Radchenko, a legendary former Bolshoi ballerina, has chosen some of the finest graduates from the great Russian ballet academies of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Perm; with the principal dancers of the company coming from the ranks of the great ballet companies and academies from Riga, Kiev and Warsaw. In other words, the best of the best. Believe me, it showed in the incredible performances given by this outstanding company.

Bravura performances given by the soloists, semi soloists and chorus of the newly-formed Russian National Ballet Theatre brought the Community Concerts to its feet with enthralled shouts of bravo echoing throughout the Barbara B. Mann Hall.

Personally, I have not felt as thrilled or excited at seeing a Russian company since I first saw the Bolshoi many years ago in New York City. The Russian National Ballet Theatre is an up-and-coming company in the grand style of the Russian ballet tradition.

These two wonderful Russian companies prove once again that true artistry has no nationality. Excellence is magnificent in any language, music and dance connects all of us, regardless.

Thank you, Community Concerts for bringing to Fort Myers two such wonderful Russian-based companies.

Next on the Community Concerts’ calendar was the violin’s reigning virtuoso, Itzhak Perlman, on March 11. He will be followed by the “living legend of the flute,” Sir James Galway, on March 28. My guess would be that both concerts are totally sold out, but one never can be completely certain. It may be worth a try to phone the Fort Myers Community Concerts at 239-693-4849 to see if there are any available single tickets or turn backs. If you do, remind ’em Marsha sent you.