This ensemble of brilliant young Russian string players is not only a group of accomplished and internationally renowned classical musicians, although that alone would justify seeing them play. They manage to deliver two seemingly contradictory experiences within a single show: the grandeur of a string orchestra—reduced in number, but certainly not in impact—and the intimacy and sheer fun of a smaller and defiantly less traditional performance.
To watch Misha’s Gang—assembled by the Moscow-born violinist and conductor Misha Rachlevsky into one of the very few Russian classical companies that does not rely on state funding—is to appreciate musicians who can both adapt Rossini, Mendelssohn, Copeland and more to the modest surroundings of theSpace, and transcend them.
The role of a conductor is an ancient debate, and Misha’s gang will not settle it. However, they provide ample evidence that the personality of the individual holding the baton can be reflected in the music they direct. Fortunately, Rachlevsky is tremendously able, but also infected with a mischievous quality displayed through the music itself and through his interactions with the audience, which inform but never overwhelm or distract from the beauty of his players.
If one requires proof of this, there is a moment in the performance that demonstrates just how much influence a conductor can have on the music with which they are charged. The novelty of this is surprisingly worthwhile, but the gang’s repertoire should please and delight anyone, whether they be familiar with these famous compositions or not.