Twenty minutes earlier, and the audience had raised the roof when Michel Beroff rattled off the frantic final measures of Bartok's Second Concerto. True, Beroff's furious display seemed partially fuelled by his having to change piano stools at the last moment; yet, once appeased, the elegant Frenchman was champing at the bit. He drove hard but skilfully, his tone a brittle monochrome, his spindly fingers racing and curling at every hurdle; and when the murderous first-movement cadenza finally arrived, he whipped up a real frenzy - and never mind about the odd botched chord. The second movement's eerie outer sections were more elegant than rhapsodic, but the central Scherzo certainly gave the LSO winds a run for their money: at one stage I seriously wondered whether they'd keep up. Best of all was the last movement, where the lad on bass drum grasped two sticks, landed a deafening thud and prompted a no-holds-barred home straight, with fearsome virtuosity from Beroff and a big, rhetorical account of the climactic brass fanfares.
And to think that all this thunder followed Debussy's "Sirenes", a mobile, keenly inflected account, with a warmly blended chorus and absolute clarity. It was the high point in a performance of Nocturnes where the second piece, "Fetes", had little of thefestival about it. "Nuages", though, was properly grey and secretive; a cool, swift, translucent affair, pensive in mood and unexpectedly reminiscent of the interludes in Pelleas et Melisande. It was the one piece in the programme where we could actually hear everything we saw, and proved a potent augury of what was yet to come.
Next LSO / Boulez concert: 2 March, Barbican Hall, London (071-638 8891)Reuse content