Feb. 15, 2019

A new symphony orchestra has appeared on the musical map of Moscow. It is a collective created and headed by conductor Vladimir Gorbik.

In February, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences hosted the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards. Alongside the ceremony’s other nominees and guests in the hall of the Staples Center in Los Angeles was our compatriot, Maestro Vladimir Gorbik.

The nomination of Russian artists, more precisely, of their albums, is not such a rarity; in the field of academic music, Russian names are found from year to year. However, in the case of the musician in question, there are a great many departures from the norm. For example, we would point out that his concerts can be heard… completely free of charge! All that is needed is to come to the services of the Representation Church of Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in Moscow. The founder and regent of the male choir of the Representation Church, Vladimir Gorbik, "performs" there regularly. And, for the two decades of its existence, the choir itself has acquired a serious reputation: suffice it to say that it participates in important Patriarchal services, including in the cathedrals of the Kremlin.

In America, with the support of philanthropist Alexis V. Lukianov, Gorbik created a kind of “conservatory” for directors and singers of church choirs – the Patriarch Tikhon Russian-American Music Institute. With this institute’s choir, including members of the Moscow choir, Pavel Chesnokov’s work “Teach Me Thy Statutes” was recorded. The GRAMMY for Best Choral Performance went to another choir, but the fact that Russian sacred music made the shortlist of the most prestigious award in the world of the recording industry is cause for joy. This is because at least 12,000 voting members of the Academy in effect partook of Russian culture when they listened to this CD for their evaluation.

This article, however, will be about the other side of Maestro Gorbik’s work. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory with two specialties – choral (Boris Grigorievich Tevlin) and symphonic (Igor Arturovich Dronov) conducting, and also attended the Compositions class with Roman Semenovich Ledenev. Gorbik’s professional growth went along the choral line, but he never gave up his dream in another area: to lead an orchestra; to realize everything that Professor Dronov had taught, about which Vladimir speaks in his interviews with constant admiration.

Two years ago, this dream began to be realized. There was support – financial and, most importantly, professional: fellow students, now working in Moscow orchestras, affirmatively answered an invitation to work together. Thus the Capital Symphony Orchestra appeared, first in Moscow, and then (Vladimir thinks globally), his American branch. The Moscow orchestra made its debut in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, the American orchestra made its first appearance on October 19, 2018 in the concert hall of the Center for the Performing Arts at Adelphi University on Long Island, and it plans to perform on October 30 at the New York Catholic Church of St. John Nepomucene at the opening of the Russian-American Friendship Music Festival in Manhattan, an event created by Maestro Gorbik himself.

The orchestra recently held a concert in the Lesser Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. The musicians performed two symphonies – Mendelssohn’s First Symphony and Schubert’s Fourth. They were not randomly chosen: one of the conductor’s ideas was to “bring forth” worthy but rarely performed pieces and make of them repertory hits. These two early romantic symphonies, according to Gorbik, are quite worthy.

These two symphonies unexpectedly reveal much in common – from the key (in C minor) to some historical parallels. They were also both written by very young authors.

Mendelssohn was fifteen, Schubert was nineteen: hence, both symphonies offer what might be considered Mozartesque lightness, a lyrical and dramatic order that brings to mind the famous Fortieth Symphony. Historically speaking, Mendelssohn’s symphony was performed immediately – first in Gewandhaus (under the control of its composer), then in London, the opus was dedicated in gratitude to the London Philharmonic Society. The Schubert, intended for a local orchestra, was found by the musicians too complex and was “tabled”: Schubert never got to hear his composition performed; the first time the “Tragic” Symphony was performed was in 1849. However, like the Mendelssohn's First Symphony, it premiered in Leipzig.

In the performance of the Capital Symphony Orchestra, an attentive, delicate attitude toward both scores was felt. The gustiness of the sonata allegro was replaced by the cantilena of the slow parts, where the soloing instruments, the dance rhythms of the minuet, and the bizarre figures of the scherzo – the solemnity of the finals – showed themselves wonderfully.

A private symphony orchestra today is a rare phenomenon: we need not only finances, but also the courage to create and develop (and maintain) a collective, not to “linger” at the rehearsal base, but to maintain the creative juices with regular performances. The professional start of the Capital Symphony Orchestra can be considered fully accomplished; now is the time for its growth, accumulation of its repertoire, and the acclaim of a grateful public.