Bacchanale … Jeux … Dialoge

Jeux – poème dansé
Sonata in D for two pianos, K448
Bernd Alois Zimmermann
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68

Pierre-Laurent Aimard & Tamara Stefanovich (pianos)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski

Reviewed by: Alex Verney-Elliott

Reviewed: 3 September, 2009
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Vladimir Jurowski, dressed by Ermenegildo Zegna. Photograph: Sheila RockThis BBC Prom was an example of misplaced and over-long programming, the concluding Brahms Symphony being performed in a rather routine manner.

In stark contrast the concert had opened with an enthusiastic account of Jacques Ibert’s Bacchanale (written to celebrate the 10th-anniversary of the BBC Third Programme, the precursor of Radio 3) played with flair. The concert’s highlight was a mesmerising performance of Debussy’s Jeux, Vladimir Jurowski bringing out all the score’s diverse shades of tone, colour and mood, and intricate subtle detail, the strings playing with seductive yet eerie elegance.

Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos simply seemed out of place both in the programme and in the vast Royal Albert Hall, but it enjoyed the commanding and intoxicating playing of Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich even if the outer movements suffered from problems of acoustic congestion. The saving grace was the Andante, which sparkled with serene clarity.

Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Dialoge is a ragbag of contemporary clichés: angst, dissonance, fragmentation, references to other composers’ music (including, admittedly, Mozart and Debussy) and noise for noise sake. Aimard and Stefanovich became smudged in the over-congested orchestral textures of this second-rate score, which the pianists, Jurowski and the LPO gave total commitment to.

Brahms’s First Symphony was bland and lacking dramatic tension. A sour point throughout was the coarse-toned horns. Jurowski seemed out of sympathy with Brahms and conducted in a mundane manner, the ultimate coda superficial and hollow, the symphony robbed of its crowning glory.

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