Classical Review: Israel Philharmonic's All-Shostakovich program

A review of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's All-Shostakovich program in Jerusalem.

THE IPO with its music director, Zubin Mehta. (photo credit: SHAI SKIFF)
THE IPO with its music director, Zubin Mehta.
(photo credit: SHAI SKIFF)
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra it opened its Jerusalem concert season months after Tel Aviv, and without its attractions Carmen and Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony. There was no reason to regret conductor Valery Gergiev’s canceling his performance with the IPO. His sudden absence provided a welcome last-minute opportunity for Israeli conductor Yaron Gottfried to perform as a substitute. He did so authoritatively and most impressively, emerging as a conductor of stature who deserves to be invited to IPO concerts in his own right, not as a mere substitute.
The IPO’s recent concert presented an all-Shostakovich program.
This is rather much of a very good thing. Each of the works – Violin Concerto No. 1 and Symphony No. 4 – indeed deserves to be performed – but in different concerts, not at the expense of diversity in one single concert.
Soloist Pavel Milyukov is a veritable wizard of the violin. The violin concerto starts with a profoundly melancholic opening, calling to mind the composer’s string quartets – his most intimate works. Its second movement is tempestuous, releasing tremendous energies that sound angry and not joyful, despite the movement’s “Scherzo” caption. There follows a grotesque Witches’ Sabbath and then a no less grotesque satire of a valse, leading to an explosive conclusion.
Milyukov conveyed all these contrasting moods and events with utmost sensitivity, intensity, breathtaking virtuosic skill and force of expression.
Symphony No. 4 is a masterpiece of orchestration and instrumental tone colors, spiced with occasional melodious episodes and ending with an appeasing pianissimo after the preceding orchestral turbulence. Gottfried displayed sovereign command of the orchestra, highlighting instrumental soli and creating forceful tuttti with minute attention to subtle details and to the coherence of the whole.