Les Biches – Suite
Piano Concerto No.1 in F sharp minor, Op.1 [Revised Version]
Symphony No.8 in F, Op.93
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Bob Briggs
Reviewed: 25 January, 2011
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London
Poulenc’s Les biches is a delightful confection, full of fun, brilliantly orchestrated, and with masses of good tunes. Russell Keable directed a performance which was lacking in Gallic charm, was too often heavy-handed, and highlighted Stravinskian influences more than I have ever noticed before. It failed to please.
Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto fared much better. Nikolai Demidenko was in fine form and perfectly at ease with this semi-youthful work – although his Opus one, it was revised following the next two piano concertos, and the work retains its youthful exuberance. Demidenko was delightful in the filigree work of the first movement and he impressed in the cadenza, with its fistfuls of notes. The slow movement contained some beautiful playing from strings and soloist and the finale, the weakest movement of the three, was well-handled, successfully melding the separate events into a cohesive whole.
Beethoven 8 brought the evening to a cheerful conclusion. In general Keable and his players gave a performance which was light and buoyant. However, at times Keable was too po-faced for the music and with similar reservations to the Poulenc. The Kensington Symphony Orchestra played well, some hesitant trumpets at the start notwithstanding, the strings being particularly impressive across the range of moods.