The first two movements of Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto demand a relaxed and caressing grace, but with Evgeny Kissin as our guide, the question was: how would his dominant ego mesh with the ardent and bruised sensitivity of the composer? The answer: he attacked his Steinway with gladiatorial aggression, and imposed himself on Sir Colin Davis and the orchestra, rather than conversing with them.
It was left to the flutes to conjure up dreaminess as the first movement unfolded, and the nudging dialogue which opens the Intermezzo had none of the requisite poetry. Where he should have been delicately suggestive, he was emphatic. Only when Schumann's exuberant Scherzo let him off the leash did he seem at ease. Yet his encore, Liszt's "Liebestraum", was masterly: he just shouldn't do Schumann.
The finale was Sibelius' First Symphony, as fecund in ideas as Harrison's piece is starved of them. This is the problem for all young composers now: after the great explorations of the past 300 years, where is there left for them to go?
"I'd never been to a classical concert but I did love Peter and the Wolf," said film producer Hugh Welchman at the premiere of his visual take on Prokofiev's quirky masterpiece. That's about right: with everyone from David Bowie to Mikhail Gorbachev having taken part in the narration, this work has earned a unique place in the general consciousness.
Prokofiev narrated it first: he'd thrown out the rhymed-couplet version and written a plainer text which would not "lead the listener's attention astray". Director Suzie Templeton says she listened to the music thousands of times, "wondering what Prokofiev meant", but decided to replace the narration's verbal cues with visual ones, resulting in the music being demoted to a soundtrack. In other words, Templeton hasn't the faintest idea "what Prokofiev meant" - that he used the piece to illustrate each instrument's qualities: velvety, low staccato clarinet for the cat; gawky oboe for the duck. Come back, Peter Ustinov: and give the score its due.
Evgeny Kissin, tomorrow and ThursdayReuse content