St Petersburg Phil - Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Wednesday November 9 2016

Conductor: Yuri Temirkanov. Piano: Boris Berezovsky. Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. 
  • Rachmaninoff: Concerto for piano No. 3 op. 30.
  • Stravinsky:  The Rite of Spring
I like Yuri Temirkanov very much. His conducting is precise and matter-of-fact and undemonstrative, his gestures, when he makes any at all, are restrained and however agitated the score may get there’s no mad arm-waving or wild writhing around on the podium. His face gives little away.

The sound he cultivates is relatively dry and restrained as well: no lush wallowing, some quite daring tempi, and, though his orchestra could, if asked to, play extremely loud, no absolute extremes of loudness, even in a piece like Le Sacre. He comes across as having almost a kind of scientific detachment, as if conducting constructivist ballets, seemingly giving equal weight to all parts. As a result, you hear inner harmonies and details you never heard before. The words that came to my mind during the piece were “post-modern." I wonder if that makes any sense. Well, it was a detailed, fascinating performance: a learning experience.

I like Boris Berezovsky very much as well. Though Rachmaninoff is a long way from Haydn, as far as is plausible the concerto playing was classical and chamber-like: again, restrained. The pianist was constantly turning to look at or leaning back to listen carefully to the strings around him, as well, of course, as keeping up often smiling eye contact with the conductor. His virtuosity was phenomenal: dazzling ripples of the quietest legato runs at hair-raising speed, for example*. The applause was long and loud.

No absolute extremes of loudness, as I said; softness, on the other hand... The encore was a beautifully loving, tender performance of the prelude to The Legend Of The Invisible City Of Kitezh And The Maiden Fevroniya (which must surely be one of the longest opera titles ever). I'd been wondering what that harp was doing at the back of the stage...

*When I described this to a friend he replied: "I call it high-speed caressing."

[This concert was recorded by France Musique. It will be well worth looking out for]


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