Friday, August 31, 2007

Prom 59: Tchaikovski and Prokofiev

My father finally discovered how to navigate through to BBC4 on SKY Digital and reported being most impressed with the dynamism of chubby little Georgian pianist Alexander Toradze, who came on to play Prokofiev's 2nd Piano Concerto. His enthusiasm was infectious and he leaped from his seat at the end of the Finale before the orchestra under Valery Gergiev (whose hair strands were surely the second most dynamic element of this performance) had played their final note.

When I saw the 1st Piano Concerto performed earlier in the season the orchestra tended to muffle both the lyricism and percussive aplomb of Prokofiev's music, but Toradze is very much in the tradition of unsparing Russian piano-bashers. I'm still convinced that BBC4 viewers were probably better able to appreciate the piece as the sound of the piano was no doubt more to the foreground, and they could witness the blur of Toradze's fingers across the keyboard.

The RAH was more packed than I had seen it all summer, yet judging by some of the chatter I could make out around me, some of the audience seemed oddly unenthusiastic for this particular programme. "Even Tchaikovsky didn't rate his Hamlet Fantasia Overture," muttered someone behind me during the cough break. Whilst I can appreciate Tchaikovski's music in the context of ballet and opera, but have never really been overjoyed by it in the concert hall.

The Romeo and Juliet Fantasia Overture was probably the main draw tonight for the middlebrows, but that was over and done with after the first thirty minutes and some fidgeting ensued during Prokofiev's 7th Symphony.The most bizarre aspect of this performance though was Gergiev's loud vocalisations during the andante expressivo. When they first started I couldn't see his face and had started to look around the orchestra for the hidden extra soloist. If I had started to hum like that the redcoats would have promptly ejected me.

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