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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON June 9th 2017

Vladimir Spivakov, Daniella Akta and Moscow Virtuosi; Photos by Vladimir Kevorkov for Show One Productions

The second half of the concert began with Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34, tuneful songs o f love that served almost as an entre-act before the main attraction, soprano Hibla Gerzmava. She began with the incredibly challenging aria, Casta Diva from Bellini’s opera Norma. In arias and Neapolitan songs by Verdi, Cilea, Gulda Puccini and Strauss, she displayed her power, dexterity and dramatic fervour. Her top notes were at times both angelic and potent. Gerzmava clearly demonstrated why she is in demand in the world’s great opera houses. In Puccini’s O Mio Bambino Caro,  her voice floated over the top A flat with the poetic splendour of a nightingale.

As a blissful final encore, Spivakov took out his violin and joined Gerzmava and the orchestra in a beautiful performance of Richard Strauss’ Morgen!  

Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra introduces soprano diva Hibla Gerzmava and young cellist Danielle Atka to Toronto

Vladimir Spivakov, Hibla Gerzmava and Moscow Virtuosi; Photos by Vladimir Kevorkov for Show One Productions

Vladimir Spivakov and Moscow Virtuosi; Photos by Vladimir Kevorkov for Show One Productions

The Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra stopped in at Roy Thomson Hall last night for its only Canadian stop on its current North American Tour. Toronto was the fifth of seven cities being visited including Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The 25 strings and 4 winds led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Vladimir Spivakov were joined by the 14 year-old Israeli cellist Danielle Akta and the Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava

The Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra has made Toronto a regular tour stop in recent years and has gained an impressive following such that an almost full house greeted the ensemble. Since 1979, Spivakov has led the orchestra that he founded, in over 100 concerts annually in performances throughout the world.

The program began with Mozart’s Divertimento No. 1 in D major, K. 136. Spivakov led a stylistic and precise performance with Mozartian exhuberance. The Andante exuded warmth and the spirited Presto displayed a graceful charm. In the following work by Shostakovich, Chamber Symphony in C Minor Op. 110a, there was a complete understanding of the undercurrents in the music. The dark, requiem-like character of this autobiographical work was conveyed unmistakeably to this listener. One did not have to be familiar with the references to Shostakovich's earlier works or to his life story to grasp the music's elegiac expression.

To complete the first half of the performance, cellist Danielle Akta performed Bruch’s Kol, Nidrel: Adagio on Hebrew Melodies, Op. 47 followed by Popper’s Concert Polonaise for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 14. These two contrasting works, although not sufficient to predict a star-studded future for the young cellist, showed her to have emotional depth beyond her years in the Bruch and a virtuosic ease and playfulness in the Popper. Akta, who at age 14 has already been the recipient of prestigious awards, is one to keep an eye on in the years ahead.