Prelude a lApres-midi dun faune Prokofiev
Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor Sibelius
Symphony No.2 in D
John Lill (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
John Lill and the LPO
Saturday, December 15, 2001 Royal Festival Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Thomas Dausgaard, here replacing Yuri Temirkanov, conducted Sibelius 2 at this years Proms, which I missed. There was much to impress in this LPO concert as Dausgaard brought his batonless, expressive body to bear on a volatile but, at times, ill-considered reading. The worst casualty was the finales big tune pushed along too much, then more so, losing poise and detail. In an (understandable) attempt to reduce pomposity, Dausgaard got the better of himself. He rallied for the triumphant coda, but the brass was too loud and the horns uneven tonal production proved distracting; elsewhere in the finale there was much that was gloriously untrammelled.
Dausgaards opening movement flowed emulating Sibeliuss close interpreter Robert Kajanus (as recorded in the thirties) Sibeliuss nationalistic Finnish fervency to the fore (Dausgaard is Danish!). The Tempo Andante, ma rubato second movement, its stealth, reflection and defiance, were well differentiated but at some cost to unity.
As well as Dausgaards Prom performance, I also missed Pletnevs Philharmonia Sibelius 2, but caught outstanding accounts from Colin Davis and Leonard Slatkin; unlike them, Dausgaards lack of cohesion was literally the weakest link.
Dausgaards Faune didnt imitate the improvisatory opening flute solo, being all-too controlled if flowing; discreet rather than explicitly erotic, but with an edge, this was a spring morning rather than a hazy summer afternoon, sparkling mineral water replacing wine as the fauns tipple.
Dausgaards his own man though; he has plenty of interesting ideas and the presence to bring them off. Hes also an attentive accompanist as his vivid, sensitive and tactile response to John Lills integrity demonstrated in the greatest, if not most popular, of Prokofievs piano concertos. Lill isnt the regular visitor to London he once was; one wonders why after this superb showing.
Lills a musicians musician, theres no excess; rather, his focus is entirely on the music. This paid striking dividends in Prokofievs grand and audacious concerto it seemed more so for Lills clarity of vision. The huge first movement cadenza emerged as a triumph of architecture. The opening pages had been of brooding atmosphere, romance (even!). The second movement is a daredevil scherzo, then comes an Intermezzo informed by macabre galumphing and introspection. Lill brought finite simplicity to introduce the finales folksong, the concertos gathering exuberance finely judged. I dont think Ive heard this great piece more convincingly realised; it emerged as an even greater work thanks to Lills musicianship and Dausgaards painstaking conducting.