A musical journey

Moody, CSO prepare Russian program, featuring Gavrylyuk

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

Guest conductor Robert Moody and pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk have never met, but they have a common goal: They want everyone in the Amphitheater to experience a shared musical journey. Moody, Gavrylyuk and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra perform at 8:15 p.m. tonight.

“We’re in on it together,” Moody said. “We are not performing for you; we are joining in on a journey with you in the audience.”

Gavrylyuk said his musical goal is to connect everyone, including himself, through the music for a spiritual and emotional experience.

“This will prove that actually, deep inside, we are all quite similar, because we are all being moved in the same manner and in the same way, no matter what language we speak or what beliefs we have,” Gavrylyuk said.

Gavrylyuk is returning for his sixth consecutive Chautauqua season. A Steinway artist, Gavrylyuk performs around the world, from the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow to the Sydney Opera House. The Ukrainian pianist first came to Chautauqua after winning the First Prize, the Gold Medal and the award for Best Performance of a Classical Concerto at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Masters Competition in 2005, at the age of 20.

When he was called a Chautauqua favorite, Gavrylyuk laughed and said that Chautauqua is his favorite, too.

“It shows that it’s quite possible to bring people from different backgrounds, beliefs and talents together in a harmonious way and to create a spectacular bouquet of wonderful human expression and interaction,” he said.

Although he’s never been to Chautauqua, Moody knows many of the members of the orchestra from other ensembles.

“I’m not just walking into a group of complete strangers but fellow colleagues and musicians that I already know and love working with,” he said.

Moody is is no stranger to western New York, either. He earned a master’s degree of music in conducting at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.

Moody initially studied cello and voice. He struggled with choosing between the two until he saw conductor Donald Neuen interacting with a choir and orchestra at a South Carolina honors choir festival. Moody went on to study with Neuen at Eastman.

Moody is the music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra in Maine and the Winston-Salem Symphony in North Carolina. He is also the artistic director of the Arizona Musicfest. He has been conducting for more than 20 years but is still thought of as a “young” conductor. Moody attributes this to the way his career has developed over the years.

“Everyone has their own path, but that was mine,” he said. “I feel very satisfied with the way I’ve been fortunate to have a certain musical growth trajectory that’s been slow and steady.”

Moody’s program for tonight features a theme of Russian composers. The concert opens with Dmitri Kabalevsky’s overture to the opera Colas Breugnon. With powerful whirlwind tones and tempos, Kabalevsky’s compositions are frequently confused with the work of another Soviet composer, Aram Khachaturian, Moody said.

After the fast and furious overture, Gavrylyuk will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26. Gavrylyuk said the concerto reflects the political turmoil in Russia during the time the piece was composed in the early 20th century. Though the piece is turbulent and filled with the uncertainty and brutality of the period, it also contains plenty of Prokofiev’s “spiky” humor, he said.

“At the same time, it is not a dark concerto,” Gavrylyuk said. “In my eyes, it’s still full of a positive outlook despite all of the reflections on negative events.”

Although the focus is often on the pianist in a concerto, Moody said the audience should pay attention to the dialogue between piano and orchestra. The concerto is also good example of Prokofiev’s haunting melodies, he said.

“If you listen to the five- or six-note motif all by itself, he doesn’t take you in a place that you would expect, but nonetheless, it remains completely lyrical and beautiful,” he said.

The concert concludes with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27, a piece Moody has conducted more than any other symphony. This is in part due to Moody’s magnetic attraction to Rachmaninoff’s works. The symphony will be performed with edits the composer made, which trims the work to 48 minutes and removes many repeated phrases.

For Moody, one challenge for tonight’s performance is getting to know the orchestra very quickly, so that together, they can interpret the unwritten qualities of the symphony.

“Capturing the things that are not on the page becomes extremely important with a work like the Rachmaninoff,” he said. “There’s a lot of rubato — what it means is robbing the tempo, pulling and pushing the tempo. It’s not marked by the composer, but it needs to happen for the piece to have an ocean wave-like lunge, ebb and flow.”

The piece also has a surprise in the third movement for anyone familiar with 1970s pop ballads.

“You sense it on the podium; you sense a lot of wry smiles, and you’re trying to decide if people in the audience want to admit they know where it comes from or not,” Moody said. “I say embrace it. It’s great that pop music embraced a great theme from the world of orchestral music.”

After he leaves Chautauqua, Moody will remain in New York to conduct at the Skaneateles Festival. He has upcoming guest conducting appearances with the Louisville Orchestra, California Symphony, Stamford Symphony and his international debut with the Slovenian Philharmonic.

Gavrylyuk will perform in the Amp again at 8:15 p.m. July 13. Pianists in the School of Music can attend his master classes on July 8, 9 and 11. After Chautauqua, Gavrylyuk will perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on July 26 at the Hollywood Bowl.

There is one comment

  1. David Shengold


    When writing up Thursday evening’s excellent CSO concert early the next morning, I inadvertently and foolishly extrapolated the word “Second”–from the Rachamaninoff symphony that finished the program–onto the Prokofiev concerto that proved the centerpiece of the program: in fact the Third. Beyond the title and one sentence about the premiere (the Third, begun in 1913, was first heard in 1921) the description I wrote pertains to the correct concerto (“Theme and Variations”, etc.) and to the (wonderful) traversal by Alexander Gavrylyuk under Robert Moody! But I apologize to the artists and the Daily readership for not having caught this foolish error; my advice to the Daily’s admirable young staff: **always proofread a printout, not your monitor**.
    -David Shengold

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