Piano Concerto No.2 in F, Op.102 Paganini
Violin Concerto No.2 in B minor, Op.7 – III: Rondo à la clochette Ravel
Tzigane – Rapsodie de concert Sarasate
Les Troyens – Act Five [sung in French]
Alexander Toradze (piano)
Leonadis Kavakos (violin)
Didon – Ekaterina Semenchuk
Aeneas – Sergei Semishkur
Hylas / Iopas – Ed Lyon
Panthee / Narbal – Lukas Jakobski
Anna – Claudia Huckle
First soldier – Duncan Rock
Second soldier – Gary Griffiths
Ghost of Cassandre – Grace Durham
Ghost of Priam – James Platt
Ghost of Chorebus – Szymon Komasa
Ghost of Hector – Rick Zwart
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
Valery Gergiev 60th-Birthday Gala Concert – LSO with Alexander Toradze & Leonidas Kavakos and The Trojans
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 Barbican Hall, London
Reviewed by Kevin Rogers
Valery Gergiev's sixtieth birthday was twenty days ago; here he was with the London Symphony Orchestra and friends to celebrate.
Alexander Toradze is an unpredictable pianist, and his Shostakovich was certainly erratic. His stamping of feet was effectively damped by a soft mat being placed securely before the piano's peddles. But this was a quite eccentric performance. Tempos were stretched to breaking point, dynamics were way beyond those written, and, ignoring the peppering of wrong notes, it was an account that exaggerated Shostakovich's writing, for mere effect. Proceedings were held together by Gergiev's careful attention. The sublime slow movement found Toradze indulging the notes, and the finale was delivered brashly.
Leonidas Kavakos served up with panache his party pieces. Some thought that Paganini had sold his soul to the Devil, because of his inhuman mastery of the violin and his gaunt, sinister appearance. Well, Kavakos is developing this appearance! He gave a fizzing account of this Concerto’s finale, the recurring 'little bell' episodes delightfully handled, Kavakos plundering his instrument to exploit Paganini’s box of tricks. Ravel's virtuoso rhapsody Tzigane is fiendishly difficult, and was also dispatched with unforced ease. Kavakos’s playing propelled the music - exciting, breathless and thrilling, an exhilarating joyride for the ears. Pablo de Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Melodies) was just as exalted: Kavakos dazzled with the work's sublime harmonies and melodies.
Act Five from Berlioz's epic opera The Trojans made for a wonderful close. The Trojans are being pursued by ghosts of comrades, Aeneas deserts Dido. She is appalled, and kills herself in elaborate fashion. The music's evocation of the sea was palpable in the LSO’s and Gergiev's determined pacing (conducted with a toothpick) gave the Act its inevitable tread towards destiny. At the heart was Ekaterina Semenchuk as Dido, in terrific and terrifying form: her monologue 'Je vais mourir' (I am going to die) was riveting and delicious, mixing insanity with shots of coherence. Her mezzo is a malleable instrument, finely attuning notes and emotion; she is a consummate performer.
Her tormentor and lover Aeneas was portrayed by Sergei Semishkur as the man in a hurry that he is. In 'Inutiles regrets! Je dois quitter Carthage' (Futile regrets! I must leave Carthage) – his extended solo – was full of exasperation, despair, resolve and mediation. Also impressive was the towering bass Lukas Jakobski. The London Symphony Chorus once again showed what a great collection of singers it is, and matched with the superb playing of the LSO, this was a great account of this operatic treat, from the heart and with caution thrown to the wind. One, of course, recalls Sir Colin Davis's conducting of The Trojans. The programme-book included tributes from Toradze and Kavakos, and also Henri Dutilleux, whose death at age 97 was announced on the morning of this concert.