West Australian Symphony Orchestra/Lazarev (2)

Cinderella, Op.87 – Suite No.1, Op.107 [complete] & Suite No.2, Op.108 [excerpts]
Symphony No.5 in E minor, Op.64

West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Lazarev

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 18 November, 2005
Venue: Perth Concert Hall, Western Australia

This concert, just as the one the previous week had done, showed why Alexander Lazarev is one of the most thrilling conductors around. Both Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky understood how to infuse dance forms with more than surface emotion; in this concert, Lazarev displayed not only the same skill but also the ability to communicate it.

In Prokofiev’s Suite No.1 from Cinderella, here expanded by the insertion of two movements from Suite No.2 (‘Cinderella at the Palace’ and ‘Galop’), Lazarev played-down the ‘classical’ qualities of both the scoring and the dance forms, instead bringing out the psycho-sexual side of the fairy-tale through a combination of surging climaxes and provocative orchestral balance. These qualities were most noticeable in ‘Introduction’, ‘Mazurka’ and ‘Midnight’ – the latter an object lesson in management of tension and ‘working the audience’.

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth went in the opposite direction, characterised as it was by a sense of lightness and clarity, particularly evident in the third movement ‘Valse’. But the performance was nevertheless also both emphatic and exhilarating. Particular attention was paid to the strings, even when in an ostensibly accompanying role, and the brass section was truly outstanding. The finale was real on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff, with Lazarev working himself into a real frenzy – such dynamic conducting may be entertaining for the audience, but, more importantly, it can energise an orchestra by moving beyond denotative gestures. Such was the case here.

Lazarev really knows how to get the strings to ‘speak’, while balancing woodwinds, brass and percussion with great precision; it’s a measure of the WASO’s considerable skill that the musicians responded so well, producing an attractive sonority that even in the big crescendos never sounded truculent or blurred.

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