BBC ’New Generation’ Artists

Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor
Aleko’s Cavatina (Aleko)
Igor’s Aria (Prince Igor, Act 2)
Violin Concerto in D

Alexander Melnikov (piano)
James Rutherford (baritone)
Ilya Gringolts (violin)

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 6 November, 2001
Venue: BBC Studio One, Maida Vale, London

An ’Invitation Concert’ with the option of being a recording session to ’repair’ for future broadcast. There were no re-takes although Prokofiev’s scherzo might have benefited from a second go: Melnikov strayed ahead a couple of times, overly dominating this spectral creation, suggesting a Kissin-like disregard of the orchestra. No problem with dexterity though – Melnikov is another powerhouse player with every note battened down. His virtuosity unquestioned, there is a propensity for him to be too loud too soon with a rather ’hard’ touch and limited tonal variety. The big cadenza was suitably cacophonous and brutal. Even allowing Prokofiev being deliberately provocative, setting out to shock, Melnikov’s lack of fantasy somewhat diminished the composer’s intent. Despite the security of Leonard Slatkin’s conducting – the BBCSO vivid and powerful – there was little to suggest that he and Melnikov had an agreed view. The third movement’s grotesqueries were effectively revealed though, Melnikov attuned to Prokofiev’s introspection, and he found the soul of the folksong in the fourth, if not all its inflexions. Melnikov could ’wow’ an audience anywhere in the world; should he find a more infinite response to touch, dynamics and colour, he will be even more impressive and individual.

Individual doesn’t yet describe James Rutherford. He is though a pleasingly musical singer, his lightish baritone is attractive and he doesn’t lay emotions on with a trowel. Phrasal ease and heartfelt utterance distinguished his two contributions, unforced and communicative, albeit greater penetration into the two characters portrayed would have been welcome, dinner jacket and recital notwithstanding.

The BBC’s ’New Generation’ scheme is thoughtfully managed. The artists chosen are not given a one-off opportunity to impress, they are presented with a programme of concerts and broadcasts over a period of time.

It will be interesting to hear Ilya Gringolts develop, as he surely will. He brought to Tchaikovsky’s concerto nothing more than where he is today, which, at 18, is hugely talented and confident. He’s himself – no attempt to sound like Heifetz or Milstein or any model he might have (a particular tone to characterise a phrase reminded me of Váša Príhoda), nor to play the concerto how he might in five or ten years time; he knows he will do that then.

There’s an attractive innocence to Gringolts’s playing and no lack of bravura – the cadenza was particularly impressive; it was his natural, unforced response that compelled, whether the spun line of the ’Canzonetta’, the finale’s fireworks or the first movement’s contrasts of lyricism and revelry, the latter impishly daredevil. Gringolts is a re-creative and imaginative musician who is surely destined for great things. He played the finale complete; those passages usually cut were here tweaked with dynamic division, a measure of Gringolts’s capacity. He couldn’t have had a better accompaniment than the one Slatkin prepared so carefully – full of detail and nuance – which spoke of genuine rapport.

  • This concert is broadcast by BBC Radio 3 on Friday, 30 November, at 11.30 in the morning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content