The concert began with Mussorgsky's prelude to Khovanschina, an opera I've yet to see and likely won't get a chance to anytime soon- at least locally. There's not much to say about it (it lasts about six minutes) except that it's gorgeous music and has these haunting, bell-like tones lurking within it that have always made me curious to experience the entire thing.
Conductor Yan Pascale Tortelier chose to lead it without a score. This choice always intrigues me, as I can't help but see it as a statement on the conductor's part implying a mastery and knowledge of the score- "I know this by heart inside and out- watch me!" A music stand and the score were brought onstage for the next piece, Khachaturian's Violin Concerto, written in 1940. The soloist was Vadim Gluzman, performing the piece on a 1690 Stradivarius on extended loan to him. Gluzman was fantastic. The work affords the soloist hardly a break and he wove through the folk-inspired melodies with seeming ease.
The score and stand disappeared again after intermission and Tortelier led the orchestra through a bombastic, sometimes plodding rendition of music from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliette. The fleet elegance found in the score nowhere to be heard. Oh wait- the score was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps that explains it. My companion had a less charitable view, but she can write about that on her own blog.