BBCSO/Bělohlávek Nikolai Lugansky

Janáček
The Cunning Little Vixen – Suite [arr. Talich]
Mozart
Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K467
Stravinsky
Petrushka [1947 Version with concert ending]

Nikolai Lugansky (piano)

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Jiří Bělohlávek


Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 14 October, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

In advance of their 18-day, ten-concert tour of Asia – taking in concerts in South Korea, China (both Beijing and Shanghai), Singapore and Malaysia – Jiří Bělohlávek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave this orchestrally vivid performance at the Barbican Hall.

Two concert versions of stage-works flanked a concerto that – still, for many – is known for a cinematic association that its composer would have been both amazed and, hopefully, delighted by. Bizarrely though the Swedish film “Elvira Madigan” is now famous precisely because of its evocative use of the slow movement of Mozart’s C major Piano Concerto That singular rockingly-accompanied Andante is itself flanked with two bright, almost martial movements – in a celebratory key and affording Mozart a chance to use both trumpets and timpani. It was given here in a satisfyingly crisp performance by dapper young Russian Nikolai Lugansky.

Unfussy at the keyboard and with a clear playing style that exuded confidence without overt effort, Lugansky essayed a forward-looking version of the concerto hinting at the later Romantic developments in concerto form. In so doing he adapted Paul Badura-Skoda’s two cadenzas for this concerto, dove-tailing them into the whole, with the expert connivance of Bělohlávek, who encouraged a similarly clean-textured, but full-bodied, sound from the players.

This is the third Mozart concerto Bělohlávek has conducted since taking up the role of Chief Conductor in July (Julian Bliss in the Clarinet Concerto and Richard Goode in the A major Piano Concerto, K488, at the Proms) and I suspect it will become a pattern in future seasons. Albeit with a big band (admittedly with a reduced string section that built from four double basses), he makes Mozart speak without recourse to ‘authentic’ dogma – and very musical it is too.

Either side of the concerto were vibrant performances of a suite from Janáček’s “The Cunning Little Vixen” Suite, this one arranged by the conductor Václav Talich, using the re-orchestration he had himself commissioned to make things easier for orchestras trying to negotiate Janáček’s extraordinary original lines. Yes, it is more lush than we have come to expect, but the Suite certainly works on its own terms, especially given as good a performance here.

Stravinsky’s Petrushka also jumped off the page in all its Technicolor virtuosity; at once the composer’s most popular ballet score and the most tuneful (The Fairy’s Kiss notwithstanding). The surprise was the abrupt concert ending, but given this is going on tour with audiences perhaps less familiar with the story and the hauntingly quiet ending of the actual ballet, that is perhaps understandable.

On this form, Bělohlávek and the BBCSO are assured a rousing tour. Spare a thought for them over the next three weeks – it’s a pretty punishing schedule, especially given the range of programmes, as can be seen from the following list.



  • Concert recorded for future broadcast
  • BBCSO


Tour Details
South Korea
Concert 1 – 21 October 2006
Seongnam Cultural Centre, Bundang
Strauss: Don Juan
Elgar: Cello Concerto (Jian Wang)
Shostakovich: Symphony No.5

Concert 2 – 22 October 2006
Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall
Strauss: Don Juan
Mozart: Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K467 (Dong-Hyek Lim)
Shostakovich: Symphony No.5

China
As part of the 9th Beijing Festival
Concert 3 – 24 October 2006
Forbidden City Concert Hall, Beijing
Smetana: Vltava
Dvořák: Scherzo capriccioso
Mysliveček: Concertante for Soprano and Horn (Elena Semenova)
Smetana: The Bartered Bride – Och, jaky zal! … Ten lásky
Dvořák: Slavonic Dance, Op.46/2; Rusalka – Song to the Moon; Necitelna vodni moci
Janáček/Talich: The Cunning Little Vixen – Suite

Concert 4 – 25 October 2006
Forbidden City Concert Hall
Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
Stravinsky: Petrushka [1947]
Elgar: Cello Concerto (Jiang Wang)
Henry Wood: Fantasia on British Sea Songs
Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No.1

Shanghai
Concert 5 – 27 October 2006
Shanghai Oriental Arts Center
Smetana: Vltava
Elgar: Cello Concerto (Jian Wang)
Janáček/Talich: The Cunning Little Vixen – Suite
Stravinsky: Petrushka [1947]

Concert 6 – 28 October 2006
Shanghai Oriental Arts Center
Elgar: Cockaigne
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.1 (Nikolai Lugansky)
Dvořák: Scherzo capriccioso
Dvořák: Silent Woods (Jian Wang)
Glazunov: Chant du ménestrel (Jian Wang)
Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
Henry Wood: Fantasia on British Sea Songs

Singapore
Concert 7 – 30 October 2006
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Strauss: Don Juan
Mozart: Piano Concerto No.21 (Nikolai Lugansky)
Janáček/Talich: The Cunning Little Vixen – Suite
Shostakovich: Symphony No.6

Malaysia – Petronas Philharmonic Hall residency
(Concerts alternate with Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and Matthias Bamert in mainly British repertoire)
Concert 8 – 31 October 2006
Dewan Filharmonik Petronas
Strauss: Don Juan
Mozart: Piano Concerto No 21 (Nikolai Lugansky)
Janáček/Talich: The Cunning Little Vixen – Suite
Shostakovich: Symphony No.6

Concert 9 – 2 November 2006Dewan Filharmonik PetronasSmetana: Vltava
Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No.1 (Ilya Gringolts)
Stravinsky: Petrushka [1947]

Concert 10 – 4 November 2006Dewan Filharmonik Petronas
Dvořák: Scherzo capriccioso
Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen (Ilya Gringolts)
Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise
Elgar: Cockaigne
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.1 (Nikolai Lugansky)
Henry Wood: Fantasia on British Sea Songs
Trad. arr. Chua: Malaysian Folk Songs

All concerts will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3

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