June 7, 2019: Russian Music Festival – WTAMU School of Music, April 28, 2019

WTAMU Symphony Orchestra
Dr. Mark Bartley: Conductor
Branding Iron Theatre
WTAMU: April 28, 2019

Many recall the 1966 comedy The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, with a star-laden cast including Alan Arkin and Jonathan Winters.

For the third year in a row, the WTAMU School of Music has staged its own artistic version of this classic which instead of absurd screen comedy featured various forms of Russian art of the most pristine quality.

On April 28 the Russian Music Festival celebrated Russian dance, of both the Mariinsky as well as folk forms and orchestral works by three Russian composers. Not too bad a selection for real cowboy country culture.

Featured ballet soloists were the dancing Orohovsky family: Arkadiy and wife Katya, along with son Alexei. Students from WTAMU’s Division of Dance performed traditional dances.

The orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Mark Bartley, opened with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s majestic Procession of the Nobles, significant for its aristocratic theme and coruscating trumpet fanfares.

The Waltz from Glinka’s opera A Life for the Czar embodies a light holiday fluff. One can almost imagine the imperial family aboard the royal yacht Standart enjoying themselves cruising the Gulf of Finland.

The orchestra, for its final work, played the Polovetsian Dances from the opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin. The work opens with a quasi-oriental sound, evoking the sound of the endless steppes under the rule of the Tartars.

The fluid dynamics of this work usually require performance by professional orchestras. The WT Symphony, responding to the direction of Dr. Bartley, admirably responded to the challenges of this piece.

And the dancers. Arkadiy especially demonstrated that Russian technique of apex extension which conveys the illusion of vaults in momentary suspension. His lifts of Katya were smooth and tension-free, while Katya’s pirouettes generated a blazing maelstrom of color.

Young Alexei, in his two dances, showed himself a consummate professional, embodying a mature stage presence consistent with a much older dancer. He will certainly make a name for himself in the world of dance, and soon.

The incongruity of this festival makes it all the more impactful. To think that here on the high plains of Texas we annually enjoy a celebration of fine art from half a world away. It doesn’t fit with the image of cows and windmills, but the arts in this part of the world are an ongoing surprise.

That’s why we say, now anticipating a fourth Russian Music Festival, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”

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