The Russians Have Come
Timothy H. Lindeman GREENSBORO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA REVIEW
January 19, 2012 - Greensboro, NC
Sergey Antonov comes with praises from none other than Mstislav Rostropovich; furthermore, he was one of the youngest cellists to win the International Tchaikovsky Competition. It seemed perfectly fitting, then, that he would perform two of that composer’s works for cello: Pezzo Capriccioso in B minor, Op. 62 and the Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33.
Pezzo Capriccioso is, despite its title (roughly translated as “free and lively piece”), primarily a somber work, with a dramatic entrance by the cello that turns into a heart-rending poignant melody, repeated several times in the course of the 8-minute work. Antonov immediately captured the audience’s attention with his flair for drama and his superb musicianship.
The “Rococo” Variations is a more substantial work: an original theme followed by seven variations. This showpiece for the cello allowed for Antonov to further demonstrate his abilities. How many superlatives can one heap on his playing? His melodic lines revealed wonderful shading and color; his passionate playing was facilitated by unerring nimble fingers. To top it all off add impeccable intonation. Later, Sitkovetsky told the audience that this performance was second only to when, as concertmaster of the orchestra at the Moscow Conservatory, he accompanied Rostropovich.