Ravel’s “Getting Lucky” and the Melnikov Treat

24/06/2013

GermanyGermany Bartók, Prokofiev, Ravel: Alexander Melnikov (piano), Teodor Currentzis (conductor), Munich Philharmonic, Philharmonic Hall Gasteig, Munich, .6.2012 (JFL)

Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C, op.26
Ravel: Bolero

Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra was an ambitious curtain raiser for the concert of Teordor Currentzis and the Munich Philharmonic, and it spoiled the ears with superb clarinet and oboe contributions in the brawny first movement. Undeterred by the jumping jacks of Currentzis’—who is decidedly of the interpretative dance school of conducting—the orchestra finished the piece in fine, if not exciting ways, and muscular colorful sound.

Bolero is for the Daft

The popularity of the Bolero exposes the need for simplistic structures, for the primitive in music, for the decidedly unsophisticated element that needs nourishment, too. We’re lucky it’s considered classical music, or else we couldn’t feel cozy and sophisticated, listening to this rubbish. That’s not a bad thing, “rubbish”. Surely the Bolero is great rubbish, perhaps like Midsomer Murders is total rubbish TV… but “good rubbish”. But don’t ever, ever tut-tut or pshaw! Pop songs or techno or down-tempo songs (not that the type to do so would be able to distinguish), while professing a love for Ravel’s confessedly music-devoid Bolero. Like it, by all means. We all do. But then don’t thumb your nose at the popularity of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers, for good measure), which is exactly the same piece of music, except that Daft Punk have the decency to stop the joke after 4 minutes. Get your simplistic groove on to that, too. On an almost tangential note: it wasn’t even performed all that well… just good enough and loud enough in the end to elicit the instinctive applause.

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Harmonia Mundi

The Melnikov Treat

What if the concert had ended just before the Bolero? It would have been a whole different ball-game, ending on a high that combined the well oiled, unfussy musicality of Alexander Melnikov with the best of high-octane Currentzis in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. Melnikov is a player free of effect and show, and enough reason to attend a concert or recital for anyone in the know. The Prokofiev was the confirmation of this optimistic prejudice in three movements—from jaunty to lyrical and back, playful, adept, and—or so I imagined—with a self-deprecation twinkle in his eye. More of Melnikov, please.

Jens F. Laurson

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