Gleaming Violins and Risk Taking in Järvi ‘s All-Russian Concert

22/02/2015

  Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich: Jean-Efflamt Bavouzet (piano), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 20.2.2015 (SRT)

Rimsky-Korsakov:   Capriccio Espagnol
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

Neeme Järvi was the RSNO’s principal conductor in the 1980s (he’s now their Conductor Laureate) and they clearly retain a special affection for one another.  It’s demonstrated, for example. in the way they respond to one another when the music stops. Tonight, as with the last time he was here (Shostakovich 7 back in 2011), he engaged in a little pantomime at the ovations, refusing to take the bow himself and encouraging the audience to give more applause to the players.  It’s charming coming from someone of his distinction, and speaks of both the respect and genuine musical comradeship between conductor and orchestra.

But that closeness was also demonstrated by the music making.  The solo cadenzas that are so important to Capriccio Espagnol grew out of a texture of comfort and confidence.  The players knew they were going to be well supported, and that led to spontaneity and a willingness to take risks, something that was also evident in the brightness and sparkle to the big orchestral tuttis.  Järvi’s speeds, too, were on the fast side, but that led to more excitement and glimmer that served the music very well.

There was sparkle aplenty in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, too, but this time generated most obviously by some fairly stunning pianism from Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.  This often understated, always musical, pianist here turned into a dynamo, fizzing up and down the keyboard with the energy of a nuclear reaction.  It was a cracking performance which, for energy and excitement, rivalled even Danil Trifonov’s EIF opener back in 2013, and that’s saying something.

Orchestrally, the thing that impressed me most in the Prokofiev was the gleam on the violins, which was especially affecting in the slow second theme of the finale.  It was the strings that carried the soul of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, too, most obviously in the heartbreakingly tender Largo, but also in the soulful themes of the opening movement.  The rest of the orchestra responded with plenty of colour elsewhere: the brass kicked off a storm at the start of the finale, but generated something ominous and sinister during the central section of the first movement, with an orchestral ostinato that was palpably threatening.  Järvi, so assured in Shostakovich, directed a performance of rock solid security, shaping each movement with total confidence in the music’s architectural reach.  He could be expansive in the first and third movements but then generate a Scherzo of such manic irreverence that it sounded like a waltz with a wonky table leg.  His treatment of the controversial D major coda was bright, shiny and fairly slow but also rather devoid of conviction.  It left me feeling slightly cold, but then, perhaps that was the point.

 

Simon Thompson

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at London’s Southbank Centre in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music in 2017-18 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! 2017 50th Blossom Music Festival season in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio __________________________________
  • NEW! The Carnegie Hall 2017-2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview of the LA Opera 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Grange Park Opera’s 2017 Season in its New Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s Extended 2017 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2017-18 Barbican Classical Music Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Symphonic Soundscapes: Cadogan Hall and RPO Announce Exclusive Collaboration with Digital App Octava __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2017 Aldeburgh Festival is from 9 to 25 June __________________________________
  • NEW! The Grange Festival’s First Season in June and July 2017 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • UPDATED IN MEMORIAM NICOLAI GEDDA (1925-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Reviews of Opera in Mumbai: A Gala and La Bohème Revisited __________________________________
  • NEW! FIVE YOUNG SINGERS JOIN THE JETTE PARKER YOUNG ARTISTS FOR 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! THE SOPRANO ELISABETH MEISTER: FIGHTING BACK FROM WHAT LIFE THROWS AT YOU AND INSPIRING OTHERS __________________________________
  • NEW! REVIEWERS OF SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL PICK THEIR BEST OF 2016 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Mastersingers Celebrate Wagner Past and Present with the Rehearsal Orchestra __________________________________
  • NEW! MARTYN BRABBINS IS ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA’S NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR __________________________________
  • NEW! MONICA HUGGETT IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H