Cinderella – Suite No.1, Op.107 [selection: Introduction; Quarrel; Fairy Godmother & Winter Fairy; Cinderella’s Waltz; Midnight]
Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.16
Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 (Pathétique)
Viktoria Postnikova (piano)
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 29 June, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
This was the last of three London concerts in which the Philharmonia Orchestra has played music by Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky under Yuri Temirkanov, to which Temirkanov brought theatricality whilst unfortunately dispensing with pathos.
Especially in the music from Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella, the violins, all seated together, produced a swell of sound that was overwhelming, woodwinds and violas being submerged. Nevertheless, this was a loving account, and the echoes of the love-theme from Prokofiev’s earlier ballet score, Romeo and Juliet, were pronounced. The ‘Waltz’ preceding ‘Midnight’ fizzed, and clockwork effects at the approach of the fateful hour had a diabolical air. At moments of massive volume, the purity of sound from the Philharmonia Orchestra was phenomenally good.
Viktoria Postnikova, replacing Boris Berezovsky at short notice, began Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto in nonchalant fashion, which likely explains the quite shocking inaccuracies of her playing in the opening bars; such exposed mistakes undermined the music until the middle of the first movement’s cadenza, from where, as if transformed, confidence (surprising that it was lacking) came to her playing, and the cadenza became zealous and full of colour. From this point, her playing was freer, expansive, and enveloped Prokofiev’s grand vision. She displayed her inimitable way with the music: the stretching of tempos and volumes, and her duels with the orchestra, gave this account an improvisatory feel.
Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony began well enough – opening measures held-back and brooding – but soon becoming too driven, the descent to pppppp not felt enough. Rather too expedient with the music thereafter, with only the briefest stare into the abyss, the rush continued. The second-movement Waltz was nimble enough, but the third-movement March was too much a showpiece and attracted unwanted applause (the idiot who cried “bravo” should be ashamed of himself). Temirkanov tried to silence the audience with his left-hand, but with no luck, so launched the Adagio in defiance, drawing a few murmurs of surprise from an ignorant few. Despite such an interruption, this slow finale descended to a poignant, ghostly conclusion, the tread of double basses and cellos ice-cold.
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