Le tombeau de Couperin
Concerto in E flat for Two Pianos and Orchestra, K365
Legends, Op.59 [selections – Nos.6, 7 & 9]
Ma Mère l’oye – Suite
Behzod Abduraimov & Stanislav Ioudenitch (pianos)
English Chamber Orchestra
Cadogan Hall, London
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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Behzod Abduraimov and Stanislav Ioudenitch are natives of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Both studied in their native cities and are now at the International Center for Music at Park University, Kansas City, of which Ioudenitch is Artistic Director and Associate Professor of Piano, and the 24-year-old Abduraimov is one of his pupils – though an advanced one, since he gained First Prize at the 2009 London International Piano competition with a performance of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. All this may explain a remarkable artistic rapport between the two pianists K365. It wasn’t just a question of extraordinarily precise ensemble, but an acutely sympathetic meeting of minds. They produced an immaculately beautiful and perfectly matched quality of tone, and if the expressive depths of the first movement were not fully plumbed, all else was sheer delight.
Andrew Litton had started the concert with a rhythmically buoyant account of Le tombeau de Couperin that successfully brought out the work’s underlying sadness. In the ‘Prélude’ some of the important woodwind solos didn’t quite register as they should: perhaps a marginally slower tempo here would have aided articulation.
The pre-concert billing suggested a complete performance of Dvořák’s Legends, but we heard only three of the ten. More of these charming and openhearted pieces would have been welcome, since Litton showed just the right affection and lightness of touch. A short second half ended with Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, the ECO now joined by some unusual instrumental collaborators for this orchestra such as a celesta and contrabassoon. For a conductor it is a great temptation to introduce spurious interpretative points into this magical score, and some famous names have fallen into this trap, but Litton presided watchfully and wisely over a performance in which he brought out the music’s natural expression and no more, to great effect.