United Kingdom Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius: Alexei Volodin (piano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / James Feddeck (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole, 11.1.2017. (IL)
Brahms – Tragic Overture
Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major
Sibelius – Symphony No. 5 in E flat Major
Tchaikovsky’s epic Second Piano Concerto (performances often last over 45 minutes) has always been overshadowed by the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 1. This is a great pity because the Second is very appealing. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra made a landmark recording in 1986 with pianist Peter Donohoe and conductor Rudolf Barshai. The recording featured, with Donohoe, Nigel Kennedy (violin) and Steven Isserlis (cello) in the sublime Andante non troppo slow movement. It is a recording I treasure still. With Kennedy young and committed, the trio Donohoe/Kennedy/Isserliss sang molto dolce.
The trio in this concert—Volodin, the leader of the orchestra, Amyn Merchant, and the leader of the cello section, Jesper Svedberg—played almost as dolce. This was altogether a sterling performance of the Concerto, with plenty of attack and brio for the fireworks in the outer movements. I would especially mention the winsome flute playing and the romantic sweep of the violins. I was particularly impressed with Alexei Volodin’s dexterity and fine sensitivity, especially through the considerable cadenza in the opening movement. (Readers might be interested to know that a new Naxos recording of this Concerto is available (review).)
The publicity for this concert emphasised the Sibelius Symphony No. 5 which has always been popular. It was first heard as a four-movement symphony in 1915. Sibelius, dissatisfied with it in that form, reworked it into the definitive form in 1915. Under Feddeck’s direction, the evocation of icy forests and lakes chilled and that noble, that wonderful defiantly patriotic melody in the Finale really set the pulse racing.