Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18
Scheherazade – Symphonic Suite, Op.35
Dejan Lazic (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 16 May, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Kirill Petrenko (not related to or to be confused with Vasily Petrenko, Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra) hails from Omsk via Austria and appointments in Meiningen and at the Komische Oper Berlin. He impressed a few years back at The Royal Opera (London) when he conducted a pairing of Bartók’s “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle” and Schoenberg’s “Erwartung”. At this London Philharmonic concert, Petrenko (born 1972) confirmed his concern for clarity and vividness.
With thirteen extra brass players standing to play in the Choir area (the LPO losing income consequently), Janáček’s Sinfonietta began the concert but would have been preferable at the end, with the Rimsky and Rachmaninov preceding it as a (long) first half. The opening fanfares were stately rather than brazen with timpani crisp and ceremonial. The was an unforced account, deft and folksy, melodic lines shaped with feeling, but the rawer aspects of the music were played down for something that was at times too comfortable.
The tutti accompaniment in Rachmaninov’s so-familiar Second Piano Concerto tended to be a little beefy and generalised (pseudo-Slavonic) although clarinet solos from Nicholas Carpenter and from the horn of Christopher Parkes (I believe, although Richard Bissill was listed as Principal) stood out and there was some particularly lovely string-playing in the slow movement. Dejan Lazic might have made more of the piano’s opening crescendo; elsewhere in the first movement his playing was a mix of reticence and insistence with accents stabbed at. Although his quiet dynamics was notable they had a tendency to draw attention to themselves rather than seem integral to the music; technique fully in place, Lazic rarely convinced that he was sufficiently inside the music. Such an overview made the performance seem longer than it was (tedium set in before each movement was over) and the finale became disjointed with extremes of tempo. Lazic offered an encore, one of Domenico Scarlatti’s sonatas – a rapid-fire example – brilliantly played, its ornaments and twists-and-turns were relished and in contrasts of tone (one passage was wonderfully lightly touched) Lazic seemed altogether less contriving than he had in Rachmaninov.
Scheherazade was given a colourful and lively performance, a mix of keenly observed detail and playing of verve and enthusiasm; the LPO seeming to enjoy playing this music under Petrenko’s enlivening direction with the many solos were well taken, albeit Boris Garlitsky’s violin solos needed more caprice. What was lacking – surprisingly, given Petrenko found it in Janáček – was fantasy. Some finer points of the score were glossed over, fortissimos and climaxes tending to the matter-of-course, but as an orchestral showpiece it came of well enough and certainly without routine, ‘The Young Prince and Princess’ (third movement) being the highlight, beautifully played and unaffectedly shaped and given with a degree of scene-painting not always evident elsewhere.