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! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Hampstead Garden Opera Bring The Enchanted Pig to Highgate in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Svetlana Zakharova and Bolshoi Stars Bring Amore to the London Coliseum in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Tom Green and Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife Premieres on 15 October in Cardiff __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! The Generosity of Gwyneth Jones: Her Masterclass at the Royal College of Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H