Sometimes an idea is so ghastly it silences resistance. This is not to put performing a voiceover narration to Prokofiev's Cinderella on the same level as, say, Fascism; just to say that, if only dissenters had spoken up, they would have done the world a favour.
The ballet score is already a wonder of illustration and suggestion. Perhaps somebody thought that asking Andrew Morton for rhyming couplets to go along with extracts from the music would turn the BBC's end-of-term concert into an upmarket pantomime. But what could he do except get in the way? Attempts at humour fell flat, and the irritation factor began to peak when the words started to tell you how to listen to the music. They even disrupted the musical climax.
The Royal Ballet's Deborah Bull, pretty in pink under a kind of flapping raincoat, made an imaginative choice to do the talking, but she sounded none too convinced and had to rely on personal charm to hold her audience. Some superb music-making was going on all the while, and happily it took centre stage for fairly long stretches. Dancing was left to Andrew Davis's podium style. But his conducting has just the right touch for Prokofiev's personal, slightly distanced mix of delicacy and wholeheartedness, and the BBC Symphony played with a warmth, beauty and enjoyment that this often phlegmatic band rarely delivers.
The first half of the concert was a more typical BBC mixed bag. Qibti, commissioned for the occasion from Vic Hoyland, gave substantial exposure to a member of that almost-lost generation of mid-life composers who thrived on plentiful subsidy a quarter-century ago, but who struggle to compete in a more diverse musical climate. The piece's distinctive features included a striking sound-world of high woodwind, trumpets and tuned percussion, consistently dissonant harmonies, and a sense of mechanistic energy running its course.
Hoyland's reading of Coptic texts gave him an effective model of "doors and transformations" that, after death, lead to the soul's release from a tomb. All the necessary framework was there, but still the piece didn't quite come off: its determinedly anti-melodic material made for stridency and clamour rather than brilliance.
The Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski showed his hand at the close of Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody, pushing a staggering technique to extremes of pace and power that began to seem positively demented. Up until then it had sounded like a competition winner's performance: risk-free, and giving the music little individual character except in the nicely loping rhythms of the slow-waltz variation. The orchestra kept with him, but you just wanted everybody to loosen up and share some of the music's wit, fantasy and passion.Reuse content