LPO Alsop (Magyar)

Kodály
Dances of Galánta
Chopin
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op.21
Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante, Op.22
Bartók
The Miraculous Mandarin – Suite

Gergely Bogányi (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Marin Alsop


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 19 November, 2004
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

The year-long celebration of Hungarian culture, “Magyar Magic”, has reached its conclusion and included this LPO concert as part of the closing weekend.

The most completely satisfying performance was Dances of Galánta, given with a sweeping, appropriately improvisatory directness, heartfelt intensity, and droll interludes, and was enjoyably imitative of Hungarian melodies, rhythms and instruments. The Mandarin suite (approximately the first two-thirds of the ballet) was less successful. Some of the playing, and balance, was too approximate and Marin Alsop’s concern for clarity and articulation tamed the music and underplayed the sleaze; the final chase music was lethargically introduced and hampered by finicky changes of tempo and a lack of real precision. In the more seductive moments, although the tension was too low, Robert Hill’s clarinet solos stood out, just as they had in Galánta.

The Magyar connection was complete with the appearance of Gergely Bogányi, although surely he could have played some Liszt rather than two doses of (Pole) Chopin? Liszt’s Totentanz would have been effective in place of the Polonaise in which Bogányi’s playing was somewhat unkempt, rather pushed through, the music’s majesty shoehorned into a too sprightly tempo. The orchestra is silent in the preceding Andante spianato, Bogányi setting a judicious flowing tempo and effectively smoothing the expression as befits the spianato direction.

Bogányi’s balance between harmonic warmth and rhythmic clarity was impressive, so too the most successful parts of the concerto’s rendition, which once past a nervy, unvaried first movement included a very sensitive, rather hypnotic Larghetto and a finale that lilted its way to a crisply realised culmination, the coda horn-signalled in witty style. Throughout, the LPO and Marin Alsop offered sympathetic and detailed support (excellent bassoon commentaries and the ad lib trombone was vividly balanced); and it was also a pleasure to hear a pianist (something of a Liszt ‘dead ringer’!) integrating his playing with that of his orchestral colleagues.

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