I, CULTURE Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall

Scythian Suite, Op.20
Symphony No.4 (Sinfonia concertante)
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36

Peter Jablonski (piano)

I, CULTURE Orchestra
Pavel Kotla
Sir Neville Marriner [Tchaikovsky]

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 6 November, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Pavel Kotla conducts I, CULTURE at the Royal Festival Hall, November 2011. Photograph: Nicky Thomas MediaCourtesy of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute the I, CULTURE Orchestra is born – not only young musicians from Poland but those from all of the Eastern Partnership: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine. The Orchestra’s full resources were needed for Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite; a well-drilled and vibrant account if not as ferocious and barbaric as this music needs, the ‘Dance of the Evil Spirits’ not savage or clinical enough. Plenty of atmospheric eerie mists though in ‘Night’ (so not the best time for the official photographers to start audibly snapping) and a fine old swagger informed ‘Lolly’s Departure and Sunrise’, the latter as glaring and cacophonous as necessary.

One of Karol Szymanowski’s final works (1932) was given a revealing rendition. A mix of symphony and concerto, this concentrated mix of languor, cragginess, folksiness and ebullience, leanly and economically written, yet communicative and nostalgic, found an assured Peter Jablonski ideally ‘first among equals’ and the orchestra distinctive in sound (darkly luminous) and identification. There were some notable solos, not least from flute and violin.

Sir Neville Marriner conducts I, CULTURE at the Royal Festival Hall, November 2011. Photograph: Nicky Thomas MediaA hale and hearty Sir Neville Marriner (now 87) took charge of the Tchaikovsky. Aside from too-loud and over-piercing trumpets this was an integrated performance avoiding hysteria, the first movement’s sections seamlessly negotiated into stormier waters. A lovely oboe solo introduced the Andantino, shapely and expressive, and the pizzicatos of the scherzo were fleet and gently strummed, woodwinds and brass bringing élan to the trio. The finale was exhilarating without being showy, light and shade still part of the mix to conclude a consistently musical and thoughtfully considered performance played with enjoyment and shared as such. Pavel Kotla returned for an encore, the ‘Mazurka’ from Halka, an opera by Polish music’s father-figure Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872), a foot-stamping celebratory dance that cued smiles (and flowers) all round.

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