Philharmonia Orchestra/Sokhiev Piotr Anderszewski

Stravinsky
Pulcinella – Suite
Bartók
Piano Concerto No.3
Tchaikovsky
Symphony No.4 in F minor, Op.36

Piotr Anderszewski (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Tugan Sokhiev


Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 15 March, 2007
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

It is an extraordinary credit to London’s hardworking orchestras that the night after its outstanding Verdi “Requiem” with Riccardo Muti the Philharmonia Orchestra should have given this programme on what one presumes was limited rehearsal without the slightest hint of routine.

Tugan Sokhiev also deserves his share of the credit for this outstanding concert. After his abrupt departure from Welsh National Opera, his UK career appeared to have hit a rocky patch. However, the Philharmonia – with whom he had already given some excellent concerts – has wisely stayed with him and he fully repaid such confidence. There is an old head on Sokhiev’s young shoulders. To a remarkable degree he combines the fire and charisma of youth with a technical command that gives an orchestra the freedom to be itself and give its best.

In the Suite from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, Sokhiev brought out the music’s baroque origins. There was a supremely elegant account of the plaintive oboe solo in ‘Serenata’ from Christopher Cowie and polished violin solos throughout from James Clark. There was also a balletic precision and finesse to this performance, and whilst the slapstick of the hilarious trombone solo in the ‘Vivo’ might have been underplayed, the music’s wit was just as effective for being slightly more deadpan.

Piotr Anderszewski can be an infuriating musician. His Mozart at last year’s Risor Festival was grotesque; however, in the right music – and Bartók (along with Janáček and Szymanowski) is undoubtedly right for him – he is clearly a great pianist. This was one of the most outstanding accounts of the Third Concerto it has been my good fortune to hear, dry and crisp. It was also highly distinctive. Now that Bartók’s music is so much part of the repertoire, it has tended to be internationalised and its rougher edges smoothed over. To Anderszewski’s credit, he relished the music’s discontinuities of line, the very opening a clear instance of this, and as a result the work emerged sounding far more Hungarian than usual. The slow movement, marked Adagio religioso, received the most penetrating reading, profound but devoid of narcissism (the programme notes mention Bartók noting down the call of the towhee bird “whilst convalescing in North Carolina” and incorporating it in this movement; quite by chance, I once found a signed photograph of Bartók on the wall of the Grove Park Hotel in Asheville North Carolina)! The other outstanding feature of this reading was the quality of the orchestral response, which was remarkable in its detailed precision.

The account of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony was on a similar level of excellence. Swift in all four movements, it was perhaps a little too swift in the first, but quite beautifully played throughout. In the slow movement, the swifter than usual tempo resulted in the sections eliding seamlessly and the playing of the woodwind principals showed exceptional finesse. The pizzicato third movement sparkled whilst the finale, mercifully taken completely straight, was completely lacking in bluster so that when the motto theme eventually returned it made its true overwhelming impact and there was no doubt as to where the work’s true jugular lay.



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