ST. PETERSBURG — The Cleveland Orchestra brought its brilliant sound to Mahaffey Theater on Monday night in a concert to celebrate the opening of the Hazel Hough Wing at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts. Aptly, the program included Ravel's orchestration of the most famous gallery walk in musical history, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, as well as Roberto Sierra's Fandangos and Midori in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Giancarlo Guerrero conducted.
Midori gave a memorable performance, drawing a standing ovation after just the first movement. The superstar violinist has a quality that sets her apart: She listens, and not just to her fellow musicians but to herself, paying rapt attention to a high phrase in the first movement, refining and enriching the tone as it was sustained. She was like a bel canto singer in the cadenza, handling the bravura passagework in astonishing fashion. But she also brought some grit to the old warhorse, attacking the finale with surprising ferocity, belying her porcelain doll appearance.
Fandangos showed off the orchestra's silken strings, but there was a lively dance rhythm going on beneath the surface, crisply punctuated by castanets. Pictures at an Exhibition was suitably impressive, leading up to the supersonic punch of The Great Gate of Kiev. However, Guerrero, an animated presence on the podium, allowed the musical narrative to slacken about two-thirds of the way through the work.
The orchestra is getting plenty of mileage out of this program, having played it four times last week in Cleveland. It will play it twice more Friday and Saturday in Miami, where it will be in residence at the Arsht Center of the Performing Arts.
Monday's crowd of 1,712 was slow to get into Mahaffey because of the traffic jam caused by barricades on downtown streets for the St. Petersburg Grand Prix. There were long lines at the ticket windows, the concert got started about 15 minutes late, and many people were seated after the opening piece.
John Fleming can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8716.