Cellist Sergey Antonov Offers a Stellar Performance

 

Channing Gray JOURNAL ARTS WRITER

 

 

The Newport Music Festival welcomed back Tchaikovsky Competition gold medalist Sergey Antonov Sunday, and the Russian-born cellist did not disappoint. Antonov, who won the Tchaikovsky in Moscow in 2007 and first appeared in Newport last season, brought with him an all-Russian program, not surprisingly, which opened with a glowing rendition of Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne. It was a performance with soaring phrases and a tone to die for.

 

But then it’s hardly a surprise that Antonov turned out to be such a fine cellist. Both his parents were also. His mother taught at the prestigious Central Music School in Moscow and his late father, Boris, was a member of the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra.

 

And it is clear that Antonov’s own training was impeccable. He’s got tremendous control, great intonation and knows how to make his instrument sing.

 

That was certainly the case in a little known Elegie by Alexander Glazunov, a gorgeous piece with Lisztian harmonies that found Antonov digging into every note, pulling out every phrase. The other nice thing about the performance was the way Antonov let the piece build, getting a huge sound from his instrument in middle sections.

 

Antonov has a real touch for lush, romantic pieces like the Glazunov. But he’s also had the firepower to tear through the Tarantella from the Stravinksy. That was sharp-edged playing, clean and crisp, with robust attacks and an abrupt ending.

 

But perhaps the highpoint of the evening was Prokofiev’s C Major Sonata, a sprawling introspective work that tapped into the mellow side of the composer.

 

And Antonov had no problem plumbing its depths. There was a nice sense of mystery to the dark opening solos, and a sweetness to the slower middle movement.

 

Antonov wrapped up his recital with a sweeping rendition of the A Minor Sonata by Nikolay Myaskovsky, a work dedicated to the late, great Mstislav Rostropovich. Again, his tone was rich and dark, the kind of music that requires a Slavic soul.

 

At Antonov’s side was pianist Bernadene Blaha, who has been heard from a lot at this year’s festival. She and Antonov made a perfect pair, with her following his every phrase.