Philharmonia Orchestra/Temirkanov Denis Matsuev: Tchaikovsky & Prokofiev – 1

Eugene Onegin – Polonaise
Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26
Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64

Denis Matsuev (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Yuri Temirkanov

Reviewed by: Richard Landau

Reviewed: 24 June, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

As a pendant to its 2009-10 season, the Philharmonia Orchestra is presenting three Royal Festival Hall concerts of music by Tchaikovsky (symphonies 4-6) and Prokofiev under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov. He opened the first concert with the ‘Polonaise’ from Act Three of “Eugene Onegin”, a performance that boasted some vibrant playing, especially from the cellos in the central section, although a little more zest overall would not have gone amiss.

Denis MatsuevDenis Matsuev was certainly up to the considerable technical demands of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, but there was far more power than subtlety on display from him. Not only was this a very loud, colour-less and unimaginative reading, but even in the second movement’s fourth and rather touching variation – marked Andante meditativo – one was surprisingly unmoved. Whilst the conducting could perhaps have drawn more-piquant and wittier results, the Philharmonia acquitted itself with excellence.

Yuri TemirkanovAn exceptionally sombre mood was captured by Temirkanov at the opening of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony; unfortunately, his remarkably slow tempo was idiosyncratic and almost self-defeating. Once the allegro got under way the conductor showed a tendency to pull the music around subjectively, unpredictably speeding up or slowing down, but the Andante cantabile – although likewise taken much more slowly than usual – was both affecting and distinguished by fine string playing plus excellent contributions from Alec Frank-Gemmill on horn (such wonderfully plangent tone!) and Christopher Cowie and Mark van der Wiel on oboe and clarinet respectively. Temirkanov found absolutely the right note of grandeur for the initial section of the finale, adept at catching the ebb and flow of emotional tensions thereafter. Happily, too, the final presto was devoid of the bombast frequently accorded to it, a glorious echo of the movement’s opening pages.

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