Giltburg’s Dazzling Shostakovich Second Piano Concerto

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Khachaturian, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky: Boris Giltburg (piano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tatarnikov (conductor). The Lighthouse, Poole, 24.1.2018. (IL)

Khachaturian Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia
Shostakovich – Piano Concerto No.2 in F Major
Tchaikovsky – Symphony No.5 in E minor

Boris Giltburg has drawn critics’ acclaim for his award-winning Naxos recording of the Shostakovich Piano Concertos with Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. I was therefore eagerly anticipating his Lighthouse performance. I was not disappointed. Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto was composed after the death of Stalin, and artistic control was subsequently loosened. That enabled the composer to relax and show a sunnier side to his music. Here the material is optimistic, thrusting and sprightly. Giltburg’s formidable virtuosity arose with aplomb to the challenge of Shostakovich’s torrential onslaught of notes in the opening movement, delivered apace with very little respite. Respite comes with the Andante, and Giltberg lovingly shaped that gorgeous melody at its heart.

The main work of the evening was Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. This must be the composer’s most confident and extrovert symphony, with little if any self-pity in evidence. The opening Andante-Allegro con anima movement was animated and muscular enough in Tatarnikov’s reading. The second Andante cantabile movement with, on the whole, a nicely nuanced horn solo if lacking some dynamic shading was distinguished by a really noble reading of that marvellous melody that, if my memory serves me correctly, introduced the 1940s film series The March of Time. The ballet-like waltz music of the third movement was suitably poised and graceful. The huge imposing climaxes of the finale impressed strongly, and Tatarnikov introduced some interesting material that was quite unfamiliar to my ears.

Think of Khachaturian’s Adagio from the ballet Spartacus, and music lovers of a certain age will very probably have an immediate mental visual connection with the venerable TV series The Onedin Line. Khachaturian’s luscious melody served as backdrop to a sailing ship proceeding majestically across the screen. The concert’s opening piece gave the opportunity to appreciate the Adagio in full. Tatarnikov in full Late Romantic throttle delivered a sweeping romantic vision contrasted by brutal material suggestive of the oncoming cruelty that would destroy the lovers’ happiness.

Ian Lace

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