For 12 straight years, Indianapolis Symphony principal cellist and Columbus (Ind.) Symphony music director Arkady Orlovsky and his wife, pianist Tamara Orlovsky, have teamed to organize and run a festival featuring the art, cuisine and — most of all — the symphonic works of their native Russia. The last 11 of these have taken place at Clowes Hall, a venue only hosting a full-sized orchestra of professional players on its stage for this one event. The “Tchaikovsky Festival Orchestra” features performers culled from the Indianapolis Symphony and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestras, plus a number of free-lancers, retirees, etc. This year’s Russian Festival was held last Sunday evening, and it was special.
Mr. Orlovsky, for one thing, did his best work ever as conductor of the event with his featured offering, Rimsky-Korsakov’s all-too-familiar Scheherazade, Op. 35. With his careful shaping of this evocative set of four “oriental” tales, aided by the very compliant Clowes acoustics, Orlovsky made this piece a true sound spectacular. The rapid string work at the conclusion of “The Festival at Baghdad” was articulate and precise. And ISO principal David Bellman should be commended for his lovely clarinet playing in “The Tale of Prince Kalendar” and “The Young Prince and Princess” sections.
Mrs. Orlovsky offered a piano concerto which long ago faded from popularity to near obscurity, Anton Rubnstein’s No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 70 (1864). With flashes of shimmering passage runs and bravura virtuosity, she, like her husband, displayed some of her best work. And this concerto is all piano, its orchestration rather colorless and its final movement bordering on the banal. In the middle movement, an Andante, Mrs. Orlovsky showed, with expressive playing of its signature tune, that she could delight as well as dazzle.
Mr. Orlovsky began the concert with the brief, rousing, fanfare-like Entr’acte from Alexander Glazunov’s ballet, Raymonda, providing an excellent anticipation of what he would achieve with Scheherazade. For next year’s festival, Orlovsky needs to consider programming Rimsky’s first masterpiece of oriental exotica, his Antar Symphony, Op. 9 — preferably its 1875 revision — a wholly ingratiating four-movement work inexplicably never performed (though often recorded), but as “Russian” as they come.