Playing to a full house at the Queen's Hall, Mischa and Lily Maisky gave an outstanding performance of lesser-known gems of Russian Romantic song for the first half of his Edinburgh Festival performance. Mischa Maisky was eminently suited to the all-Russian programme, hailing from the tutelage of Rostropovich and the Russian school of cello playing, and was given a thrilling accompaniment from his daughter Lily Maisky.
The twelve pieces comprised a mixed selection of music composed originally for cello and piano, and arrangements from Russian song, some adapted by Mischa Maisky himself. Mischa took full advantage of the emotional range of these pieces, playing with sonorous lyricism, and imparted a performance that was packed with passion and stamina. Most impressive was their ability to play really softly, challenging the acoustics with the quietest of sounds. Although these pieces were not technically difficult as the cello line followed the range and line of the human voice, Maisky's bow control and wide ranging vibrato was seamless, as was their ensemble.
The pieces by composers including Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Glazunov, Rachmaninov and Rubinstein were played back to back with very little pause between them, giving a pleasant impression of a wash of romantic melodies without end. But the highlight for me was the famous Rachmaninov Vocalise. Having heard this piece performed by the pair last year at the Manchester Cello Festival I was pleased by its mature style and forthright interpretation. Many of the passages were taken at a faster tempo than traditionally played, but in true Russian style the Maiskys played expressively and it was enthusiastically received by the Edinburgh audience.
Shostakovich's Cello Sonata in the second half of the concert was the longest and also the most moving performance. The virtuosic second and fourth movements were a welcome contrast to the Romanticism of the rest of the programme and Maisky showed great skill in his ability to move from the restraint of the slow melodies to the vigour required by the faster passages. As ever, his technique was flawless, with not a note out of place, even in quickest of moments. His crystal clear double stops in the second movement were a prime example of this. Equally, Lily Maisky played with grace, vigour and composure proving how well-rounded a musician she is.
Not allowing the Maiskys to leave the concert without an encore, the pair ended the morning with Rachmaninov's Elegie. It was an outstanding treat to hear them play with such passion and a wonderful end to an emotionally charged performance.
By Mary Robb
Preview of the 2008 Edinburgh International Festival:
Previous reviews of the Edinburgh International Festival :
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (2008)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Ades (2007)
San Francisco Symphony/Tilson Thomas (2007)
Optical Identity (T'ang Quartet) (2007)
A Celebration of Poulenc (2007)