For whatever fluke of scheduling, a number of Russian operas, symphonies, chamber works and even theatrical events are simultaneously popping up all over the city this month. Taken together, they could make for a small festival. Independently, the performances stand strongly on their own. Here are the Top 5 Russian-themed concerts.
1. This season the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra under new director Jacques Lacombe has been curating a number of themed concerts. On Oct. 28-31, its gaze turns to the steppes with its Russian Tales concert. Dudana Mazmanishvili will play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 followed by Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. The program begins with Roger Sessions’ Black Maskers Suite, which is based on a Russian folk story.
2. Das Rheingold may have attracted the Metropolitan Opera’s season opening attention, but the second new production debut, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov is garnering its share of buzz. And for good reason. The great German bass, Rene Pape brings to stage the tragic tale of the 17th-century tsar along with a mostly Russian cast and a conductor in Valery Gergiev. Gergiev will also bring his Mariinsky Orchestra to Carnegie Hall to present a series of Mahler Symphonies Oct. 17-24.
3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s house band, the Pacifica Quartet, has conquered complete cycles of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Carter string quartets. This year they’re tackling all of Shostakovich’s string quartets in order starting Oct. 23. The fifteen works show the arc of Shostakovich’s career from an idealistic student writing revolutionary music, to one struggling with the artistic mandates of the Soviet regime.
4. Bearing the name, and artistic oversight of Mikhail Baryshnikov, it’s no surprise that the Baryshnikov Arts Center presents a number of works hearkening back to its founder’s motherland. On Oct. 25 and 26 it presents the premier of Spectral Scriabin. Lighting guru Jennifer Tipton takes Alexander Scriabin’s theories of color and music a step further with her own light design choreographed to selected piano works performed by Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze.
5. The most famous of Russian composers, Tchaikovsky, gets special treatment at Symphony Space. Pianist Eve Wolf wove into a concert of his works the letters and diary entries illustrating his 14-year relationship with his patron Nadezhda von Meck at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Oct. 13-14. Then, on Halloween, the main stage will show a filmed performance of Tchaikovsky’s opera Queen of Spades from Barcelona’s Liceu opera house.