Although Rozhdestvensky offered a sprightly and decorous accompaniment for Murray Perahias characteristic musicianship, this Emperor didnt quite add up. It couldnt have got off to a better start with Perahia dispatching the opening cadenzas fearlessly; then Rozhdestvensky offered a majestic, serene even, orchestral exposition. Thereafter, one or two tempo lurches, a couple of surprising moments when Perahia was non-accommodating of the orchestra, and the increasing predictability of his pellucid intimacy, however beguiling, didnt sustain attention. Nor Perahias more-recently-found powerhouse approach. While gruff rhetoric is appropriate in Beethoven, Perahia never sounds entirely at home with such demonstration. A poised and eloquent veneer sometimes hid the heroic grain of this music, the ear deflected to more candid epigrams in the orchestra.
The first halfs overture and symphony gave unalloyed pleasure. Rozhdestvensky likes to take his time and relish musical partials. He opened the ballet overture quite solemnly and with great expression before cantering through the allegro in the most delightfully light-footed way. The symphony was equally urbane. Just twenty-four hours earlier, I had heard Colin Davis conduct a living and loving account of it. Although their tempi were quite similar that is with little truck to the metronome markings and no historical conscience Rozhdestvensky emphasised the works machine-like connection of ideas. His aural exposing of ropes and pulleys best epitomised by the dissection and gambol of the Finale and a range from gossamer to gawky brought smiles and a salient reminder that music is rather more than the noise it makes. In contrast was the unashamed richness of the Minuet (a nostalgic return to pre-scherzo times) all chandeliers and ball-gowns here. Rozhdestvenskys sense of fun and his individuality will hopefully find him back with the Philharmonia soon.
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