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.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 3 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 4 Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
- 5 QS university world rankings: Imperial College London leapfrogs Oxford to join Cambridge as best British university
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Cilla, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith embodies the young singer perfectly
Tyler, The Creator says having new U2 album automatically downloaded on his iPhone was 'like waking up with herpes'
Downton Abbey actor Rob James Collier lost sleep over 'harrowing' homosexuality storyline
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly