Performance Wednesday, March 2, 2016 | 8 PM

Russian National Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
The distant tread of an approaching caravan, along with a marching Russian regiment, fills the music of Borodin’s tone poem In the Steppes of Central Asia. The composer turned to an old Russian folk song to evoke the right musical mood, a practice later employed by Stravinsky in his ballet The Firebird. But the imagery changes to a vividly cinematic monster and magic in this tale of the Firebird, much of it captured in the 1945 suite. The Russian National Orchestra, described as “awe-inspiring” (Gramophone), is the perfect ensemble to play this music.


  • Russian National Orchestra
    Mikhail Pletnev, Artistic Director and Conductor
  • Stefan Jackiw, Violin


  • BORODIN In the Steppes of Central Asia
  • PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2
  • STRAVINSKY The Firebird Suite (1945 version)

  • Encores:
  • BACH Largo from Solo Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005
  • KHACHATURIAN Waltz from Masquerade Suite
  • TCHAIKOVSKY "Dance of Skomorokhi" from The Snow Maiden, Op. 12

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • Mikhail Pletnev

    Mikhail Pletnev's genius as a pianist, conductor, and composer enchants and amazes audiences around the globe. He was the Gold Medal and First Prize winner of the 1978 International Tchaikovsky Competition when he was only 21-a prize that earned him early recognition worldwide. An invitation to perform at the 1988 superpower summit in Washington, DC, led to a friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev and the historic opportunity to make music in artistic freedom.

    In 1990, Mr. Pletnev formed the first independent orchestra in Russia's history. Many of the country's finest musicians joined him in launching the Russian National Orchestra (RNO). Under his leadership, the RNO achieved a towering stature among the world's orchestras in a few short years. He describes the RNO as his greatest joy and today continues to serve as its artistic director and principal conductor.

    Mr. Pletnev's performances and recordings have proved him to be an outstanding interpreter of an extensive repertoire, both as a pianist and as a conductor. His recordings have earned numerous prizes, including a 2005 Grammy Award for the CD of his own arrangement for two pianos of Prokofiev's Cinderella. He also received Grammy nominations for recordings of Schumann's Symphonic Etudes, and Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev piano concertos with the RNO and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. His recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos (Deutsche Grammophon) was named "Best of 2007" by The New Yorker.

    Mr. Pletnev's compositions include works for orchestra, piano, strings, and voices. His unrivaled transcriptions for piano of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Sleeping Beauty were selected for the 1998 anthology Great Pianists of the 20th Century (Philips Classics).

    Today, Mr. Pletnev is one of Russia's most respected and influential artists. An advisor on Russia's Cultural Council, he was awarded a Presidential Prize in 2007 for his contributions to the artistic life of the country. Pianist, conductor, composer, and cultural leader-all are significant facets of Mikhail Pletnev's life as an artist. Yet he considers himself, simply, a musician.

    Russian National Orchestra


    The Russian National Orchestra (RNO) was founded in 1990 by pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev. Today it is widely recognized as one of the world's top orchestras. Maintaining an active international tour schedule, the RNO appears throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and is a frequent visitor to major festivals in Edinburgh and Shanghai, and at the BBC Proms. The orchestra presents its own RNO Grand Festival each September to open its season in Moscow, and is the founding orchestra of Festival Napa Valley, held every July in California.

    RNO concerts are regularly aired on National Public Radio, the European Broadcasting Union, and Russia's Kultura channel. The orchestra's critically acclaimed discography, launched with a CD of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" Symphony in 1991, now numbers more than 80 recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, Pentatone, and other prestigious labels.

    The RNO is unique among the principal Russian ensembles as a private institution funded with the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations in Russia and throughout the world. In recognition of its artistry and path-breaking structure, the RNO was the first non-governmental orchestra to receive grant support from the Russian Federation.

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  • Stefan Jackiw

    Violinist Stefan Jackiw is recognized as one of his generation's most significant artists, captivating audiences with playing that combines poetry and purity with an impeccable technique. He has appeared as soloist with the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco symphony orchestras, among others.

    This season, Mr. Jackiw embarks on a multi-city tour with the Russian National Orchestra. He also appears in recital with acclaimed pianist Jeremy Denk, performing Ives's violin sonatas. In Europe, he makes his debut at Berlin's Konzerthaus and returns to Amsterdam's Concertgebouw with the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest. In Asia, he appears for the first time with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra at Suntory Hall under the direction of Krzysztof Urbański, and returns to the Seoul Philharmonic under Mario Venzago. He also tours Korea in chamber-music performances with Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica.

    Other recent highlights include performances with the St. Louis Symphony under Nicholas McGegan and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin. In March 2014, he gave the world premiere of American composer David Fulmer's Violin Concerto No. 2, "Jubilant Arcs," which was written for Mr. Jackiw and commissioned by the Heidelberg Festival with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Matthias Pintscher.

    Mr. Jackiw has performed at numerous festivals and in many concert series, including the Aspen Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, Caramoor International Music Festival, Celebrity Series of Boston, New York's Mostly Mozart Festival, and Washington Performing Arts Society.

    Mr. Jackiw is also a member of Ensemble Ditto, a popular Korea-based chamber music group with a mission to introduce new audiences to the chamber music repertoire. Ensemble Ditto plays to sold-out halls across Korea, presenting works from Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven to George Crumb, Steven Reich, and John Zorn.

    Born in 1985 to physicist parents of Korean and German descent, Stefan Jackiw began playing the violin at the age of four. His teachers have included Zinaida Gilels, Michèle Auclair, and Donald Weilerstein. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and an Artist Diploma from the New England Conservatory. He is also the recipient of a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.

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At a Glance

This program presents three Russian masterpieces, one from the 19th century and two from the 20th. All three represent a more refined version of Russian sensibility than audiences might expect. Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia is an exquisitely understated tone poem by the composer of Prince Igor, source of the popular “Strangers in Paradise” from Kismet. Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto is classical and lean compared to the composer’s overtly Romantic First. The slow movement is one of Prokofiev’s most elegant essays in neo-classicism. Even The Firebird, by far the most dramatic and colorful piece on the program, is heard in a pared-down 1945 orchestration, which Stravinsky revised to correct what he came to regard as the “wastefully large” original. 
Program Notes