Rissman Deconstructs Søndergård’s Colorful Prokofiev

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Prokofiev:Naked Classics, Romeo & Juliet, Paul Rissmann (presenter), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Thomas Søndergård (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 17.02.2012 (SRT)

Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet

Naked Classics time again, and this time Paul Rissmann turned his presentational gifts to a selection of ten numbers from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suites. Naked Classics is an outreach programme that other orchestras could learn a lot from, its no frills, easy access style forming a great way into great music. It’s a threat-free way to introduce a newcomer to a new piece, but old hands will also find a lot to enjoy too.

I especially liked the way Rissmann would deconstruct a section and put it back together to show how it works; he did this most effectively in the Morning Dance to show how Prokofiev’s use of rhythm drives an ostensibly simple melody. He is also good at externalising element that we tend to take for granted in music, such as how Prokofiev evokes a sense of feminine naivety or of masculine confidence in the early depictions of the young lovers. He spent most time on The Death of Tybalt, analysing how it gallops through enormous chunks of the story and illustrating it with spotlights on chunks of the piece as well as on individual sections of the orchestra: did you know that during the fight sequence the violins have to play 542 notes in 54 seconds?!

The performance itself was very expressive, be it in the forceful weight of the Montagues and Capulets, the surging beauty of the love music or the prinked delicacy of the faster moments. I also really enjoy watching Thomas Søndergård with the RSNO. As I mentioned at his last concert, he has a very expressive way with the baton and he is a skilled communicator on the podium, drawing playing of great colour from the musicians, who clearly enjoy working with him. He takes up his post as RSNO Principal Guest Conductor in the 2012-13 season and I look forward to seeing how his relationship with the orchestra deepens.

Naked Classics returns in April with Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony. For more details click here.

Simon Thompson