Seen and Heard
Bartok, Gergely Boganyi (piano), London Philharmonic
Orchestra, Marin Alsop (conductor); RFH, 19th November 2004 (AR)
Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s imaginative
and well-balanced programme made for an intriguing evening ranging
from the romantic to the expressionistic. The programme kicked off
with an invigorating account of Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of
Galanta. Ms. Alsop’s petite, elegant figure quickly established
her commanding authority over the LPO, securing superb polished playing.
She kept her finger on the throbbing pulse of the score, perfectly
judging the constantly shifting tempi and dynamic contrasts and teasing
out the lilting grace and taut angular rhythms. The LPO woodwind were
paramount here, playing with witty aplomb, backed by rich, deep strings.
The thirty-year-old Hungarian pianist Gergely Boganyi proved the highlight
of the evening. Sporting what appeared to be a nineteenth century
black frockcoat with shiny silver buttons and long flowing hair, he
could have easily been taken for Franz Liszt’s doppelganger.
Boganyi’s interpretation of Chopin’s Second Piano
Concerto was refreshing and highly refined, with a deliberate
eschewing of meretricious mannerisms throughout. The first movement
had an eloquent grace, with Boganyi producing crisp and agile playing
with his extraordinary lightness of touch: his fingers became fluttering
butterfly wings reflecting the sun light of the notes.
For the Larghetto Boganyi changed mood and played with a
distilled, almost abstracted quality, making the notes sound hauntingly
bathed in a mood almost of despair; Alsop coaxed the LPO strings to
produce a quivering, shimmering pool for the pianist’s shuddering
notes. In the concluding Allegro vivace Boganyi played with
brio and a fleeting agile grace, producing intoxicating and exuberant
sounds that melted on impact. His palette was broadly tinged. What
made this perfectly played performance extra special was Alsop’s
first rate conducting, enticing the LPO to play with muscular incisiveness
and noble power: a superbly played account all round.
After the interval we heard Chopin’s rarely played Andante
Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brilliante, Opus 22. Now Boganyi
opted for playing in a more flamboyant and exuberant manner to fit
the mood of the music; here his playing was darker and weightier than
in the concerto. Again Alsop secured expressive warm-blooded playing
from the LPO.
Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite was something of
a disappointment after Alsop’s taut and angular account of Kodaly’s
Dances from Galanta. While paying the minute attention to
detail demanded by this intricate and dense score, Alsop tended towards
very measured and ponderous tempi, fragmenting the music and breaking
its menacing development, thereby deadening its frissons. Whilst the
brass had the appropriate snarling bite, the percussion were watered
down, with timpani and bass drum – all-important here –
being barely audible. Essentially a savage work, this performance
lacked nervous tension and violence until the closing passages which
finally took fire – but by then it was too late.
I hope to see both Alsop and Boganyi back with the LPO: all in all
an evening with some inspired music making, played to a rather unappreciative
and lacklustre audience.
Fryderyk Chopin: Piano Concertos No. 1 & No.2;
Jorge Bolet (pf), Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit (conductor),
Decca 425 859-2.
Bela Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin; Concerto for
Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly (conductor),
Decca 458 841-2
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