CLASSICAL MUSIC : The Russians Are Coming, With Home-Grown Concert

Music director Yevgeny Svetlanov brings the U.S.S.R. State Symphony to San Diego at 8 p.m. Monday to perform an all-Russian program in Copley Symphony Hall. The august orchestra, which made an auspicious local debut at Civic Theatre in November, 1988, will play the opening concert of the La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s international orchestra series.

Svetlanov has been the orchestra’s music director since 1965. From his hotel in Phoenix, he discussed the upcoming program, assisted by translator Andrew Stivelman. Svetlanov is in the middle of a 23-concert North American tour, although he will conduct only 16 of the programs. His assistant, Edward Chivzhel, will conduct the rest.

Svetlanov explained that the all-Russian program was not his idea.

“I really wanted to bring the Mahler Sixth Symphony,” Svetlanov said, “but the tour’s producers said no to that idea. Since I wanted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Prokofiev’s birth, we have three of his works on our tour.”


The San Diego audience will hear Prokofiev’s Seventh Symphony in C-Sharp Minor, a rarely performed piece in this country, along with the familiar Overture to “Russlan and Ludmilla” and Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony. Countering the programming rules most American orchestra managers hold sacrosanct, Svetlanov stressed that, in his experience, American audiences respond most enthusiastically to music they don’t know.

“After a while, we become saturated with the standard works; our ears need something fresh and new. And the only difference between American and Soviet concert audiences is that American people whistle at the end of a concert.”

When Prokofiev’s Seventh Symphony was first performed in the West, it was dismissed as a regression in the Soviet composer’s style. Completed in 1952, a year before the composer died, the work was also seen as a capitulation to Stalin’s musical Kulturkampf of 1948. According to Svetlanov, these interpretations are terribly wrong.

“The symphony has an amazing simplicity and a lyrical quality, the kind of refined simplicity that only comes at the end of a composer’s life.”


Asked if changes in the Soviet economy have affected the operations of the State Symphony, Svetlanov stated unequivocally that they were all negative.

“We have become our own occupation in terms of earning our own income. The financial aspect now takes first place in our priorities, and when that happens, it hinders our ability to make beautiful music. You know that here in America several orchestras have folded because of financial problems. For us, the change to market economics means that money has taken over the arts. But I have heard most recently that the powers in the Soviet Union are now rejecting the change to a market economy.”

Talmi safe. San Diego Symphony music director Yoav Talmi is safe at home in Tel Aviv, according to symphony officials. The maestro had been conducting the Bergen Symphony in Bergen, Norway when the Persian Gulf War began. Talmi’s final Bergen concert was canceled, however, because of the death of the Norwegian monarch, Olaf V. On Jan. 17, Talmi returned safely home to Israel. His next scheduled appearance on the San Diego Symphony podium is Feb. 14.

Happy Birthday, Wolfgang. Since tomorrow is Mozart’s birthday--he would be 235--two local groups will celebrate his natal day with concerts. The San Diego Early Music Society will present the Streicher Trio, a San Francisco-based ensemble that plays period instruments, at the La Jolla Congregational Church. They will perform two piano trios, featuring Charlene Brendler on fortepiano, and Beethoven’s “Variations on a Theme by Mozart.”

At UC San Diego’s Mandeville Recital Hall, Janos Negyesy will lead his faculty colleagues and graduate students in an all-Mozart evening. William Powell from Cal Arts, Valencia, will solo in the Clarinet Quintet; UCSD visiting professor Aleck Karis will play the C Minor Fantasy, and soprano Carol Plantamura will sing arias from “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Music from Down Under. A weeklong festival of contemporary Australian music is scheduled for San Diego State University Feb. 10-15. David Ward-Steinman, SDSU resident composer who spent the last academic year on a Fulbright in Melbourne, will organize the festival. Australian composer Gordon Kerry, in residence with the Sidney Philharmonia, will premiere one of his works, and Ward-Steinman will unveil “Voices from the Gallery,” an extended song cycle for three voices that he completed while in Australia. In addition to the three concerts and a lecture, the festival will include a panel on aboriginal Australian music. And where else could you become enlightened on that subject?

Autograph hounds. Four singers from the cast of San Diego Opera’s current Mozart production “Cosi Fan Tutte” will sign autographs at Tower Records (6405 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego) today from 3-4 p.m. Soprano Carol Vaness, baritone Hakan Hagegard, tenor Keith Lewis and soprano Barbara Bonney will scrawl their names on those tiny CD boxes. Or perhaps an opera program.

Notable this week. England’s popular vocal ensemble, the King’s Singers, return to Brown Chapel at Point Loma Nazarene College Monday at 8 p.m. . . . Kings of the classical guitar, Pepe and Celin Romero, will open a guitar festival at the University of San Diego with a benefit concert tonight at 8 p.m. in USD’s Camino Theatre. For festival information phone 260-4682.