Symphony No.1 in D, Op.25 (Classical) Rachmaninov
Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18 Tchaikovsky
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36
Piers Lane (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Philharmonic/Vedernikov Piers Lane
Friday, October 30, 2009 Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
On his few past appearances in London (conducting “Boris Godunov” and “The Fiery Angel” with the Bolshoi and, then, a concert with the BBC Symphony Orchestra), Alexander Vedernikov has impressed. He did so again in this London Philharmonic presentation, which began with a pointed and elegant account of Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony (a 20th-century tribute to Haydn), an enjoyable listen but a bugger to play, the LPO on top of the score’s trickiness, sweetly expressive in the slow movement and unfailing shapely in the finale, despite Vedernikov’s demandingly nimble tempo.
Vedernikov relishes detail and adds an edge to the music he conducts (aided by a lucid and expressive technique), which came into its own in Tchaikovsky 4, the opening brassy ‘fate’ motif grandly stated, Vedernikov keeping the opening movement on the move without forcing the pace, tempo- and dynamic-dovetailing linking the chains persuasively; and if the tension-level was sometimes set a little low, this was a gritty, sensation-free performance that was geared – via an unfussy if soulful slow movement and a deliberately, delicate, even furtive pizzicato scherzo – to a finale that was hard-won and stirring (with the return of ‘fate’ made unusually arresting).
In between, and with some hilarity from Dudley Moore for his encore (last heard at the Wigmore Hall in April), it was good to hear Piers Lane in some mainstream repertoire (record collectors will be familiar with the rewarding byways he has given us), approaching afresh one of those ‘oh-no-not-again’ pieces, Lane imposing immediately through the rich sonorities he produced, an account of the solo part alternately heroic and sensitive, sometimes spiky, a creative but unmannered traversal well supported by the LPO and Vedernikov who conjured some ear-catching sepulchral textures from the cellos in the slow movement (fine solos here from Laura Lucas, flute, and Robert Hill, clarinet, just as there had been from John Ryan on horn in the first), the finale offering the most contrasted, even volatile, playing from Lane, the triumphant coda a bombast-free genuine point of arrival.