D E T R O I T ...N E W S ...L I V E L Y ...A R T S

Inspired by a gifted pianist, the RCCP hits new heights

by Nancy Malitz, News Staff Writer

The Renaissance City Chamber Players Saturday night delivered the standard of performance normally associated only with Detroit's top two resident ensembles -- the Detroit Symphony and the Michigan Opera Theatre. The Detroit debut of pianist Constantine Orbelian, who is destined for an international career, coupled with alertness and discipline in RCCP's own chamber orchestra ranks, made one dream of a future in which three major musical institutions define this city's best qualities.

The Orchestra Hall concert featured the local premiere of the Piano Trio by Arno Babadjanian -- the Soviet Union's answer to John Williams -- persuasively delivered by Orbelian, RCCP founder and violinist Misha Rachlevsky, and RCCP cellist Pamela Highbaugh. Babadjanian, an Armenian who died in 1984, was an inspired melodist who achieved celebrity primarily for his Soviet pop music. But he also contributed to the serious art in which he was trained, adhering without apology to the lush idiom of Tchaikovsky and his successors.

Among modern models, Babadjanian's piece most resembles the romantic side of Shostakovich. The first two movements, for example, begin with long, soulful melodies for strings, punctuated by piano chords, before developing a richer contrapuntal weave.

Orbelian and Rachlevsky have ideal temperaments for this music: Orbelian's gorgeous tone and unhurried mastery were matched by Rachlevsky, who never has sounded so impressive as he did when he applied a sweet, unforced sound to the Andante soliloquy.

The rambunctious Piano Concerto No. 1 of Shostakovich then gave Orbelian the spotlight to peddle a virtuosic range of moods within a tightly argued performance that further underscored his formidable gift. He is a rare charismatic; watch for his star to rise. Doubtless inspired, the RCCP ensemble interacted in the best chamber music tradition, assisted by the trumpeter Brian Rood. Then the tutti players did some exciting work -- two Schumann Fairy Tales, the Barber Adagio for Strings, and the Pachelbel Canon.

 

 

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