LPO/Krivine (20 March)

Alborada del gracioso
Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26
Mussorgsky orch. Ravel
Pictures at an Exhibition

Martha Argerich (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Emmanuel Krivine

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 20 March, 2004
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

Emmanuel Krivine is not often in London, although he returns to the LPO on 28 April. A very impressive LSO account of Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben (February 2003) lingers long in the mind, yet the Alborada that began this concert (eventually, 10 minutes late!) was wretched as a conception – too fast and shapeless (any connection between the opening pizzicatos and guitar-imitation was purely coincidental) with the music generally pushed-through at a cost of atmosphere and characterisation. The percussion was nearly always too loud and gratuitous, thus only a few bars of subtlety and thoughtful balance stood out.

Pictures was similarly projected, the percussion, again, for the most part, simply too noisy, too banged in an artless manner; and the brass was encouraged to be dominant and blaring: the closing ’Great Gate of Kiev’ with four each of trumpets and trombones was ear-scything (without a score, one wonders if Ravel actually made do with three of each). A Pictures short on identify too; Krivine breezed through each one (a plus in ’The Old Castle’) and was vivid on detail, especially primary colours, his active rather angular beat drawing dutiful, occasionally tentative, playing. This was a soufflé that refused to rise.

Krivine had been very accommodating of Martha Argerich who played one of the concertos most associated with her. If only she could have played something different … it’s such a familiar piece, and her way with it is unchanged. Yes, she played fantastically well, the fingers often a blur but every note was clear. Her dynamic range is wide and the sound she creates is thoughtfully maintained at both ends of it, and there was some wonderfully delicate playing. Her first entry hadn’t inspired though, ruthlessly fast, the LPO woodwinds struggling to keep up; but things settled to allow repose and a pp or two. She’s a legend, or has been created one, was certainly acclaimed like one, and she demonstrated that her facility is undimmed. But she didn’t really illuminate the music beyond her own inimitable style and this concerto sounded, as it so often does, a rather superficial piece.

Leaving the RFH I overheard a couple’s conversation … “if the concert had started on time…” – I think they’d just missed a train!

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