PCM4/Prom 34 – Buniatishvili/Roth/BBC NOW, Cadogan Hall/Royal Albert Hall (5/5, 3/5)
Friday 12 August 2011
No question about the most impressive Proms debut to date: Khatia Buniatishvili, a mermaid in a black sequinned ball-gown, wowing a packed Cadogan Hall.
This 23-year-old Georgian pianist had already made Liszt’s ‘Sonata in B minor’ her calling-card, but I was still bowled over by what she did with it here. This tumultuous work demands a huge canvas, and by taking the opening exceptionally slowly – which made the ensuing cascades even more dramatic - Buniatishvili brought everything into bold close-up. She made Liszt’s emotional journey a stream-of-consciousness, maintaining a fine balance between unhinged wildness and lyrical introspection, and adding a brilliant edge to the tone as the storms blew up; her dynamics were exquisitely calibrated, with the fugato section at once savage and smart as a whip.
For Prokofiev’s seventh sonata, with its multiple references to the angst of war, Buniatishvili found a hard, dry, metallic touch perfectly suited to the first movement’s mechanistic quality; the slow movement became a tone-poem, and the finale a hurtling toccata. Liszt’s third ‘Liebestraum’ made an island of calm between these awesome works; Chopin’s fourth Prelude rounded things off with dreamy grace.
Meanwhile Prom 34 brought three exhumations, Saint-Saens’s crowd-pleasing ‘Organ’ symphony, and a new work by Simon Holt entitled ‘Centauromachy’ (‘battle of the centaurs’). Holt’s works often come with a literary gloss: this one drew on classical mythology to evoke a series of Arcadian scenes, with the protagonists represented by Robert Plane’s clarinet and Philippe Schartz’s flugelhorn.
Holt created a miniature double-concerto by setting these nicely-contrasted instruments against a variety of orchestral backdrops. Each movement had its own sound-world, and some were indeed evocative, but the piece would be better served – indeed, illuminated – by a coloured light-show than it ever could be by words. Maybe next time? Think out of the box.
I can’t imagine why anyone should have wanted to exhume Dupre’s banal little ‘Cortege et litanie’, and Proms director Roger Wright’s other rediscoveries – by Frank Bridge (1879-1941) – were a disappointment. On the basis of ‘Enter Spring’ and ‘Blow out, you bugles’, Wright’s point is not yet made: yes, Bridge was closer in spirit to Ravel and Debussy than to his English compatriots, but no, he wasn’t remotely in the French composers’ league. Valiant performances from tenor Ben Johnson, conductor Francois-Xavier Roth, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
Seinfeld is laughing all the way to the bank: TV show generates $3.1bn in repeat fees since final episode
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Blade Runner sequel: Harrison Ford confirmed to return with Denis Villeneuve directing
All fiction follows one of six basic storylines, according to new research
House of Cards season 3 premiere, review: Has Frank Underwood gone soft?
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East