Classical: Roof-raising Rachmaninov
HIDDEN PERSPECTIVES: RACHMANINOV ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL LONDON
Friday 14 May 1999
The concert had opened with a trio of piano Etudes tableaux dressed in Respighi's cinematic orchestrations, the first a sort of Ron Goodwin sound- alike and the second a dead ringer for Rachmaninov's own tone-poem The Isle of the Dead.
For the central act, Moscow-born Yevgeny Kissin charted the Second Piano Concerto's ominous opening chords virtually to perfection. Kissin can ravish the ear as seductively as anyone, or accentuate a phrase with compulsive deliberation. And yet he can as easily withdraw into his own world, his eyes fixed anywhere but on the rostrum, before suddenly firing off again into virtuoso prominence.
It was a strangely disjointed performance, orchestrally plush, pianistically unpredictable, a promising embryo that might - at some time in the future - grow into a great performance. Best was the detail, those "divine moments" that piano-fanciers love to notice but that don't really matter much in the wider scheme of things.
Maximum contrast with Kissin's exalted fussiness was provided by his compatriot and near-contemporary Arcadi Volodos, who took to the stage on Thursday for Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto. Where Kissin communes with self, Volodos plays to the gallery. He has the cultivated ease of a jazz musician, a gentle charisma that can be quite disconcerting.
During the Concerto's quiet orchestral opening, he leaned back in his chair as if performing was the last thing on his mind. "He'll miss his cue," I thought, an unwarranted fear that instantly vanished as he caressed the first theme to life. The fireworks came later - in the huge first movement cadenza (the bigger of two possible options), and in an account of the finale that erupted with the force of a Horowitz or, dare I say, of Rachmaninov himself.
Volodos is a stupendous technician, but is he a musical player? I'd wager a bet that Ashkenazy related more readily to Kissin's inward musings than to Volodos's display, although it was Volodos who seemed the more responsive to the conductor's contribution.
Thursday's programme opened with the rarely heard symphonic poem Prince Rostislav and ended with an uncut reading of the Second Symphony. Both performances confirmed at least one perspective on Rachmaninov that is far from "hidden": his colossal debt to Tchaikovsky.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
Suicide Squad's Margot Robbie: Jared Leto's now more petrifying when out of his Joker make-up
Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz, review: Stieg Larsson's heroes return in a thrilling new intrigue
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs