3/18 & 20: Cleveland Orchestra

Vladimir Ashkenazy’s relationship with Russia is complicated. The Soviet system nourished the child prodigy’s piano talent, right up through his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory and a victory at the Tchaikovsky Competition, the country’s most prestigious musical contest. But despite his relative stardom, and some time spent as a reluctant and unproductive KGB informer, Ashkenazy never gained the complete trust of his Soviet bosses. When he married Icelandic pianist Thorunn Johannsdottir, the spy agency stopped using him as a source. The couple moved to London and then to Iceland, where they now live. Ashkenazy brings insight on his fatherland to Severance Hall this week, when he conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in a program of Russian works. The spotlight piece is Ashkenazy’s transcription of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Also on the program are two works by Sergei Prokofiev: the Romeo and Juliet Suite and Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring Jean-Efflam Bavouzet as soloist. Showtimes are 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., 216.231.1111). Tickets: $31-$98. — Michael Gill

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