Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – Prelude to Act One
Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor, Op.15
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.43
Boris Berezovsky (piano)
Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter
Reviewed: 2 October, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Wagner’s Prelude began flaccidly. It was dull, without impact – the brass was not yet warmed up. Matters improved. The brass got into its stride, eventually out-noising the all-important surging violins. Leif Segerstam kept up a brisk pace. Nor – until the resplendent end – was it full-blooded, surging or ebullient. The suspicion arose that this was under-rehearsed – a magnificent orchestra and one of the finest and most energetic of conductors delivered a performance that did not do them justice.
I admire Boris Berezovsky greatly, but he does not suit Brahms. The composer has a mighty spirit; Berezovsky does not. He can bang the keys loudly. He can caress them fondly and gently. But he cannot roar from the depth of his soul. Segerstam had to rein-in the Philharmonia – as a result, we lost the work’s mighty opening explosion, recalling the creation of the universe – in accommodation to the exquisite milk and water that this star displayed so effectively in the second movement.
The Sibelius symphony began with shining promise. Those firm but fragmentary phrases shimmered with direct and unpretentious honesty. Indeed, that amazing and exploratory first movement was the most successful of the evening. The slow movement had moments of grandeur. There was portentous gloom and gritty allusions to lurking depths – also to a morass from which the movement heaved itself out from time to time, but it did not hang together. True, Sibelius does not offer coherence, but conductor and orchestra do need time to work on this movement.
The remainder of the symphony – the brighter, more populist and triumphal movements – was vigorous, loud and rousing. Yet something was missing. The progress sounded forced; a well-fed Boa constrictor trying to disgorge an unwieldy meal, a towering performance hanging over us, just out of grasp, maybe due to the brighter, cleaner acoustics of the refurbished Royal Festival Hall that pinpoints sounds with pitiless clarity but offers little bloom.