Two Repertoire Standards Impressively Conducted by Yuri Temirkanov

02/06/2014

 Tchaikovsky and Dvořák: Denis Kozhukhin (piano), Philharmonia Orchestra, Yuri Temirkanov (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, 31.5.2014 (MB)

 

Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto no.1 in B-flat minor, op.23
Dvořák – Symphony no.9 in E minor, op.95

 

I keep trying with Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, and a Richter performance can just about momentarily dispel my doubts, but less than that simply confirms me in my belief that Nikolai Rubinstein’s initial dismissal of the work was not so far off the mark. It is certainly difficult to imagine on what conceivable musical grounds it is performed so frequently, the greatest problem being that apparently tacked-on introduction. Yes, it can be argued from looking at the score that there is a connection with subsequent material, but does it ever sound like it? Perhaps it does, and I have yet to hear the right performance; at any rate, this was not it.

Yuri Temirkanov’s conducting of the Philharmonia was impressive; he can probably conduct this concerto in his sleep, but it certainly did not sound as if he were. The introduction was somewhat on the swift side, no great loss. Thereafter, the first movement was characterful and agile – at least from the orchestra, which, when having the spotlight to itself, might have been performing one of the symphonies. Denis Kozhukhin, alas, rarely showed any sign of listening to the other players; it was as if it were his show and his show alone, the orchestra treated as if it were a mere ‘accompaniment’, certainly no way to salvage so problematical a work. It was a pity, since Kozhukhin was perfectly capable of exhibiting dark, weighty tone, at times melting away into nothingness. The slow movement was, on the surface, well played, but it was difficult to detect anything much beneath the surface, at least when it came to the pianist. The orchestra, alive with dance tunes and rhythms was another matter. A typically alert orchestral opening promised well for the finale, dispelling a predictable bronchial outburst. There was a sense of urgency throughout, though at times, Temirkanov perhaps drove a little too hard. Indeed, at times, the performance felt on the verge of falling apart. Meanwhile, Kozhukhin apparently remained in a world of his own, his playing increasingly brutalising. Thank goodness it was not Mozart.

The second half offered an estimable account of Dvořak’s ‘New World’ Symphony. The opening intrigued, sounding more as if were plunged into action that had been going for some time than I can recall. The first movement’s exposition proper clearly derived from material we had heard: not only analytically, but dramatically (as if there were such an opposition!) Temirkanov drove the performance urgently, but not too much, and relaxed significantly for the second group, which benefited from lilting rubato. Here, as in Tchaikovsky, the Philharmonia’s strings sounded splendidly full of tone. The concision of the movement registered very well indeed. Its successor benefited from an unsentimental approach. Jill Crowther’s beautifully-played English horn solo was first among equals in an excellent woodwind section. This was a songful account, with due understanding of harmonic development. The third movement bore definite kinship to the contrasting sections in the slow movement; rhythmic detail was very well pointed. In that respect, one might even have called it ‘balletic’, so long as that were not understood to detract from its symphonism. If the work bears its ‘cyclic’ features too obviously on its sleeve, then that is not the performers’ fault; at least they were duly suggestive here. The same might be said of the finale, given an impassioned, perhaps more overtly Romantic performance: full of dramatic tension, without a hint of the routine.

Mark Berry

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Season at the Royal Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018 Cheltenham Music Festival – 30 June to 15 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Staatsoper Unter de Linden in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! St Petersburg Ballet Theatre Bring Swan Lake to London in August __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces its 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Booking Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Additional Tickets Now Available for Nevill Holt Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Four-Day Celebration of Art Song in April 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere by Novaya Opera of Pushkin – The Opera in the Theatre in the Woods __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella in Cinemas on 15 May with Live Q&A __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H