Thursday, April 25, 2024

Kozhukhin’s Rachmaninoff touches greatness in an outstanding RPO live performance with Vasily Petrenko – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Smyth, Rachmaninoff, Elgar: Denis Kozhukhin (piano), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Vasily Petrenko (conductor), Royal Pageant Corridor, London, 27.3.2024. (MBr)

Vasily Petrenko conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra © Frances Marshall

Smyth – The Wreckers, Overture
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No.3
Elgar – Symphony No.2

This live performance was fairly superlative – however it actually was not fairly what it was imagined to have been. Yunchan Lim had been attributable to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3, however a hand harm had compelled him to cancel his European Tour. Maybe I used to be a bit of extra pissed off that I used to be not going to listen to him play the Chopin Études at Wigmore Corridor in April; I appear to search out myself in one thing of a minority amongst my fellow critics (and particularly audiences) in being unable to genuflect fairly so shortly to his interpretation of this concerto, particularly in some more moderen performances I’ve heard (one from Boston involves thoughts). Having mentioned that, I’d have been very happy to have been proved improper.

However what a present of a efficiency of this endlessly fascinating concerto we did get from the Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin. I usually take the view that for those who hardly ever get a foul efficiency of this work then you definitely hardly ever get an ideal one both; Kozhukhin’s very nearly touched the latter. There’s, in reality, some similarity between Yunchan Lim and Kozhukin within the sense that each these pianists are very attuned to what’s going on inside the orchestra – each interact with it when a substantial variety of pianists by no means hassle to take action. The concept that this can be a symphonic piano concerto is clearly not misplaced on both of them. But when Kozhukhin appears inside the orchestra he does one thing else too and that’s to have interaction along with his internal self; there was one thing deeply emotional and poetic about this efficiency that actually put it in fairly one other class. The Karajanesque closing of the eyes, the size of time he simply by no means spent wanting on the keyboard in any respect after they had been open, gave this efficiency an infinite freedom and depth you hardly ever encounter within the live performance corridor.

That freedom is partly there as a result of Rachmaninoff provides the pianist all of the area to be as elastic or as tight as he needs. In contrast to within the Second Concerto, the Third has no metronome markings. You didn’t, for instance, discover in Kozhukhin’s efficiency any correlation between the quick tempo he set for the opening bars and the noticeably measured one he set for the cadenza; with Evgeny Kissin it’s clear there’s a hyperlink. Though there may be by no means actually any cause why pianists ought to tackle the interpretations of their mentors or academics (Lim’s has little in widespread with Minsoo Sohn’s) so it’s additionally the case that Kozhukhin’s doesn’t share an excessive amount of with Kirill Gerstein’s, because it occurs the final pianist I heard on this concerto. But when any pianist did come to thoughts it was Yevgeny Mogilevsky (one of many best interpreters of the Third) and with whom Kozhukhin shares one thing of a bent to spring from his stool – useful in case your proper hand doesn’t comfortably stretch to a low D on the different finish of the keyboard.

Denis Kozhukhin © Frances Marshall

If this had been an unquestionably ‘Romantic’ efficiency, it was additionally one which was typically heavy on rubato – and I’m completely high-quality with that. The cadenza – the longer of the 2 – was an actual standout for this. This can be very uncommon to listen to such refined enjoying of the f and mf bars, the dim and cres phrasing and even the accelerando – one thing a major variety of pianists are already doing by the cadenza’s seventeenth bar. There wasn’t a single tempo that Kozhukhin set right here – nor a single dynamic. If it was slower and considerably ‘bigger’ in scale than a traditional efficiency of this cadenza it was as a result of with the intention to hit the colors he wished it may solely be this manner. Does he know the distinction between Presto and Allegro molto? Completely. The meno mosso simply rippled.

The second motion, too, was vastly spectacular. Not all pianists take such a poetic view of this music – and never one that appears again to a number of the Mendessohnian roots of the music, both. What maybe set the pianist up right here was Vasily Petrenko’s dealing with of the lengthy orchestral opening to the second motion, a number of the most tragic music Rachmaninoff wrote. He received superlative enjoying from the orchestra (magnificent strings) – and knew exactly the type of bleak darkness he was aiming for. I don’t assume Kozhukhin lacked energy within the piu mosso part of the Intermezzo both – and there was once a very ‘Russian’ type of enjoying the ff passage earlier than the Maestoso that seems to have develop into a bit of retro as of late (that’s, not as written) however we received one thing near it.

The Finale alla breve had many high-quality issues in it, too – and once more a cadenza that was splendidly executed. Tempi had been fleet for the opening, however not overly so; what was additionally noticeable right here was the dialog between the pianist and the woodwind and the cello in duets, not one thing that’s all the time so prominently executed in performances, however in step with the panorama of Kozhukin’s interpretation. A good looking pianissimo earlier than the opening of the Meno mosso – unusually mild, as if the fingers had been floating on air, however with the depth of the left-hand bass so wealthy – was magnificent. The leggiero seemed like being performed in double chords if not truly being executed so.

That cautious rubato was once more there within the lengthy passages with marcato markings, with Kozhukhin pointedly enjoying the notes with emphases alongside these with none. The Piu vivo earlier than the concerto’s closing bars introduced one shock and that was neither conductor nor pianist sharing a single look at each other in a passage the place the concerto can simply collapse (and typically has). However this had been a efficiency of good chemistry and by no means as soon as did you’re feeling it could ever achieve this.

Pianistically, this had been a tour de power. However for Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Philharmonic it was a outstanding orchestral accompaniment – essentially the most memorable I’ve heard in current instances. The enjoying was superlative. I’d be very shocked if I hear a greater efficiency of this concerto for fairly a while.

Elgar’s Symphony No.2 has been a piece that Petrenko has performed earlier than – and one which seemingly travels effectively with non-British conductors. The symphony’s Edwardianism isn’t the one approach it may be interpreted; I warmed to Giuseppe Sinopoli’s Italianate glow, simply as I’ve to Tadaaki Otaka’s weightier one with the NHK Symphony Orchestra or Naoto Otoma’s extra ascetic view of it.

In a symphony that may badly veer off track in some performances Petrenko took a really fluid view of it and he was helped enormously by enjoying that was neither overly heavy nor vulnerable to indulgent phrasing. Certainly, maybe there have been hints of one thing a bit of Venetian that sprung from the symphony’s origins, and of the Shelley quote that prefaces the work – there was ample daylight on show right here, textures of sunshine shining by means of them, however but the despondency that’s typically on the coronary heart of this symphony may thunder out when it wanted to.

The primary motion was completely measured – it flowed with ease, neither accelerated or slowed down with uncompromising mannerisms. There was a lilting grace right here, a horse gallop there; reflective passages merging with extra strident ones. Petrenko achieved some lovely enjoying – the ghostly, veiled writing within the muted strings; the weird impact of bell-like tone on the harps. Elgar achieves a type of terror in components of this symphony’s opening motion that may be understated; Petrenko introduced it into the open so when the anguished fff climax arrived it did so with much more energy.

The Larghetto was intensely executed, with mourning reflectivity and noble grace. Coy reserve and melancholic mistiness had been emphasised by excellent string enjoying. The music is perhaps stately and sorrowful – the drum roll, and chordal string passages recalling march rhythms, however it was by no means overplayed. Lamentation, contemplation and even grief emerged however in essentially the most diversified approach. Some internal battle, and a return to terror, emerged within the third motion – it was taught, gripping with some fantastic woodwind enjoying, songs that had been interjected with floating strings and punctuated brass. Petrenko achieved a degree of integration that was impressively proper: and there was volatility and violence however saved in test.

The concision of the ultimate motion may be stuffed with drama – and over grandiose statements. Plenty of element got here by means of right here, and a richness within the enjoying that was spectacular (not least on the double basses). The movement was majestic and but had an nearly chamber-like high quality with sensible, flashing orchestral insights. From all that terror got here a religious acceptance of tranquillity that was gloriously executed.

The live performance’s opening work, Ethyl Smyth’s Overture to The Wreckers was presumably the least persuasive piece on the programme. Swashbuckling and a tad cinematic additionally it is distinctly underwhelming; the efficiency was high-quality sufficient.

An exquisite live performance – actually absolutely deserving a BBC Radio 3 broadcast, however so sometimes excluded from the schedule for some cause.

Marc Bridle

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles