Last night’s 2016 Chicago Youth in Music Festival open rehearsal was led by the great Russian conductor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, whom I was lucky to meet backstage at his concert last Thursday. He was introduced by CSO artistic advisor, Gerard McBurney, in which McBurney emphasized how the youth musicians on the stage were going to leave the night as changed musicians, complete with a new perception on how Tchaikovsky’s music, in this case – the Fantasy Overture from Romeo and Juliet, should be played.
Rozhdestvensky, who has seen and witnessed many events in his long and illustrious career, having been friends with composer Dmitri Shostakovich and even having the infamous Josef Stalin attend some of his concerts, held a quick and concise rehearsal (clocking in at less than an hour), but nevertheless provided the musicians and audience members an inside look as to how he approaches one of Tchaikovsky’s most well known works. I loved seeing how Rozhdestvensky noticed the ever-so slight nuances in shading and tempo and how he conveyed these revelations to the musicians. And his display of his legendary baton technique was at work as well.
The only other open rehearsal I have ever attended was that of Riccardo Muti and the Civic Orchestra back in September, which was a completely different experience than Rozhdestvensky’s. In my opinion, Muti took a more pedagogical approach and really involved both the audience and musicians. He explained the historical context of the piece (Charpentier’s Impressions d’Italie), incorporated countless jokes, and went through the piece with the musicians many, many times (a 2-hour rehearsal). Nevertheless, it’s incredible to witness live any world-class conductor at work, a most enlightening (and relaxing-no need to think about school) experience. To see Rozhdestvensky conduct Tchaikovsky is a treat in itself – and one the city of Chicago should be extremely grateful for, considering Rozhdestvensky extended his overdue Chicago visit for an extra couple of weeks. Hoping this legend comes back to Chicago in the future!