Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture
Piano Concerto No.1 in D flat, Op.10
Romeo and Juliet, Op.64 [selections]
Alexander Toradze (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Richard Landau
Reviewed: 17 February, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
This concert further demonstrated how well the LPO is playing. The beginning of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet offered immediate evidence of this, Vladimir Jurowski’s expansive approach to the Friar Laurence theme graced by silken strings, characterful woodwinds, and double basses so rich and sonorous as to powerfully underscore the tragedy ahead. Jurowski cumulatively increased the degree of tension, while always eschewing gratuitous hysteria. In the ‘love music’ the contribution of Max Spiers’s cor anglais was exceptional, and in the bleak denouement the strings were profoundly effective.
The premiere in 1912 of Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto divided the critics; hardly surprising, since the work combines a smidgeon of romanticism with a heavy dose of brutality, all within a 16-minute time-span. Alexander Toradze rose to all the formidable pianistic challenges, and even in the loudest orchestral passages his contribution was always audible. The LPO was wonderfully spiky, the winds relentlessly commanding attention. In the Andante section Toradze’s playing was wonderfully limpid, with a delicate accompaniment adding to the brief sense of repose before the pianist, tiger-like, produced a continuous flow of breathtaking virtuosity, Jurowski and the LPO providing an accompaniment of motoric energy.
For his selection of music from Prokofiev’s ballet-score Romeo and Juliet, Jurowski opted for his own choices rather than any of the three suites prepared by the composer. This decision worked both musically and dramatically, the score wonderfully well played and flowing almost seamlessly. One could cite the delectable flutes in ‘Young Juliet’; the ‘Dance of the Knights’, which was projected with enormous grandeur and sensational brass playing; the highly dramatic sequence of chords at ‘Tybalt’s Death’; and the quite chilling account of the deaths of the lovers. At the end one was left emotionally drained, and also in awe at the achievement of the orchestra and its galvanising conductor.