This latest instalment in the London Philharmonic’s year-long “Changing Faces: Stravinsky’s Journey” series focussed on The Fairy’s Kiss, drawing on Tchaikovsky’s piano music and songs, written in 1927 at the behest of dancer Ida Rubinstein, and seldom performed complete (Stravinsky fashioned a Divertimento from it). Vladimir Jurowski conducted a vivid account, lean and deliciously pungent, Stravinsky’s personality unmistakably his own. This inspired reading brought out every rhythmic and melodic nuance, but arguably it’s a score dependant on choreography to signpost the narrative (the programme note was of limited use in this respect) but such was the LPO’s sensitivity and overall response that one became immersed in Stravinsky’s wizardry – abrupt changes in weight and colour, a brightly-lit dance of bassoons, horns and trombone followed by a briefly languid solo quartet of strings and, later, ominous horns and timpani – every sonority lovingly crafted. Amongst many fine individual contributions, Rachel Master’s harp, Shirley Brill’s clarinet and Kristina Blaumane’s cello formed a bewitching alliance.
The evening had begun with Stravinsky’s re-orchestrations of selections from The Sleeping Beauty, including ‘Bluebeard pas de deux’, given a sympathetic rendition, its delightful woodwind solos eloquently realised, and Pieter Schoeman’s warm-sounding violin enhanced the romance of the Act Two ‘Entr’acte’.
The Piano Concerto began in business-like fashion, Jurowski seemingly impatient to launch it, Daniil Trifonov ploughing through thunderous chords on a bright-sounding Fazioli. Whether head bent in total absorption or straight-backed, Trifonov cuts a severe figure, although there’s no denying his commanding technique or transparency of articulation, but the first-movement’s big moments never quite fizzed and climaxes were earthbound. Reflective passages brought an engaging tenderness though, but I was unmoved. The second movement fared better, Jurowski exploiting woodwind colouration and Trifonov enjoying the impish central section. The Finale brought fresh energy – strongly defined rhythms, plenty of forward momentum and building to an impactful close, Jurowski still holding the reins tightly. As an encore Trifonov offered the slow movement from Prokofiev’s Eighth Piano Sonata (Opus 84) – well-shaped and polished.