Standing Ovation for Vondráček’s Thunderous Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Glinka, Kalinnikov, Rachmaninov: Lukás Vondráček (piano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Kees Bakels (conductor). Lighthouse, Poole, 1.11.2017. (IL)

Glinka – Overture: Ruslan and Ludmilla; Valse from A Life for the Tsar
Kalinnikov – Symphony No.1 in G minor
Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor

This remarkable concert was a sheer delight from start to finish.

Concert performances of Kalinnikov’s First Symphony are rare. It was indeed touching that conductor Bakels showed the score book to the audience, at the end of the performance, clearly desiring to emphasise its richness and how much it deserves to be better known. The BSO performance of this epic symphony, of some 40 minutes, was magnificent, from the 15-minute opening movement with that memorable lyrical main theme and the impressive fugue through to the magical, other-worldly Andante second movement with its gorgeous writing for the harp, lovingly shaped by Eluned Pierce—a rhythmic ostinato in character but so much more than an ostinato—and on through the Scherzo to the exciting finale with Kevin Smith’s full-throated trombone blazing.

The great demands that Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto makes upon the soloist are well documented. They daunt all but the most accomplished such as Horowitz, Sokolov and, of course, Rachmaninov himself. The standing ovation for Vondráček’s performance spoke volumes. He leapt tiger-like to attack the first movement cadenza, tenderly finessed the second movement’s silkier material and thunderously attacked the climbs of the Finale to the glorious final peroration, with the BSO in passionate support.

The concert opened with a zestful performance of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture, and the Valse from Glinka’s opera, A Life for the Tsar, distinguished by the delectable flute of Anna Pyne.

A truly memorable concert with the BSO at the top of their game. The whole evening will linger in this reviewer’s memory.

Ian Lace

Leave a Comment