RPO/Slatkin/Kempf, Cadogan Hall, London
Tuesday 06 February 2007
In recent years, the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow has become famous for its very public disputes between audiences and judges. Not winning has often made for bigger headlines and greater notoriety. British-born Freddy Kempf took third prize in the 1998 competition but public adulation awarded him the gold medal and the press, wholeheartedly lending ballast to the protest, dubbed him "The Hero of the Competition".
Kempf still plays the Tchaikovsky B-flat minor Concerto like a winner, replying to those opening horn calls with chords of implacable authority. The big tune may be in the strings, but the subtle shifts in weight and tone that he finds in his accompaniment dictate how it sounds. And once the mightiest deception in music is past (this iconic tune never reappears), the most familiar piano concerto in the repertoire is predictable only in its unpredictability.
It is often said that the mark of a great performance lies in the degree to which the performer can convey some sense of being complicit in the moment of composition. The amazing thing about Kempf's reading of the concerto was its very real and dramatic sense of the unexpected. Those sudden shifts from reverie to demonic possession were unusually and disconcertingly abrupt. Tchaikovsky's volatility was mirrored in Kempf's temperament. The excitement was almost scary.
When Leonard Slatkin and the Royal Philharmonic (alert and quick of reflex throughout) carried us into the lyric second subject of the Cossack-dancing finale, their sense of wellbeing was countered by Kempf hustling the tune on. Quite a performance, then - and one enhanced by the clarity and immediacy of the Cadogan Hall acoustic. How grateful this hall is for the woodwinds, whose presence is always so well felt. And how characterfully they donned their commedia dell'arte regalia for Stravinsky's piquant take on Pergolesi and others in his ballet Pulcinella. Its charming and often devilishly inappropriate subversions were all very palate-cleansing after the Tchaikovsky, but I'd had sufficient with the first course.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
- 2 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 3 Russell Brand backs Ed Miliband: 'You gotta vote Labour'
- 4 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
May the Fourth Be With You: The internet celebrates Star Wars Day with new Twitter symbols and memes
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils