"Diplomatic Stars: Famous Actor and Melancholy Brides
Many beautiful but sad looking brides dressed in their ceremonial white were roaming all around Panfilov Park yesterday afternoon. Last night at the Music Conservatory Hall we saw more “stars” for the sake of Russia’s diplomacy with Kazakhstan at a concert of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” Featured guest was the famous Russian actor Oleg Tabakov who is known for his voice in the cartoons of the talking cat Matroskin. (Some would even say Tabakov has cat-like features in his face, so much has he been identified with his most recent notoriety.)
The first part of last night’s concert was an impressive young violinist from Kazakhstan who expertly played his several hundred year old instrument. The talented orchestra behind him played a Prokofiev’s number, then his Mozart piece. Apparently, both composers were ahead of their time. Supposedly many ballerinas or musicians refuse to dance or play Prokofiev, so complex are his compositions. The Kazakh violinist was fantastic with the Mozart number and the Kazakhstani crowd gave him a standing ovation and many bouquets of flowers. Of course, as an encore he had to play an even more complex piece. Stunning!
At the end of intermission, I heard a flute player practicing a strain of the hunters theme in Peter and Wolf number. Then I knew I recognized it from listening to Leonard Bernstein’s rendition when I was a child. In an earlier Skype conversation, I had asked my Mom if she could hum me a few bars, she couldn’t remember it. That whimsical refrain was woven throughout the number along with narration by Oleg Tabakov of the story concerning Peter. The animals in the story were first identified by Tabakov, such as the bird = flute, the duck = oboe, cat = clarinet, Peter’s grandfather was a bassoon and the wolf was portrayed by three French horns. The hunters with their guns were featured with loud timpani and bass drum. The voice of Peter came through with the stringed instruments, I was amazed to see six bass fiddles.
Fun to watch the expressive faces or body movements of players especially of the cellists, the flutist, and the timpani player. The French horns were excellent as were the many violinists. It would seem that all the musicians enjoyed what they were doing as professionals. The young conductor in his long tailed tux was seemingly in command of the whole travelling delegation of “musical diplomats” from Russia.
As I write this, I have the hunter’s theme from Peter and the Wolf coming to mind. I can’t help but think composer Prokofiev had an allegory of life in the Soviet Union when he wrote this simple child’s tale. He had returned to Moscow in 1936 to write it after having lived abroad. Seems that artists and musicians can sometimes survive political purges while other professionals in their respective trades cannot. I wonder what Prokofiev’s relationship to Stalin was like and as I watched the musicians in last night’s concert, I mused what stories their parents had to tell about life in the former Soviet Union. The musicians and actor are all “diplomatic stars” in my estimation.