MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.

330,993 performance reviews were read in January.


Verdi, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky:  Yefim Bronfman (piano); Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Valery Gergiev. Barbican Hall, 23.2. 2008 (CC)

This was the second of two concerts given by the VPO and the ever-charismatic Gergiev. The Verdi in question was the Overture to La Forza del destino, a reading of theatrical urgency and point. Pauses were given real meaning, as the tension carried straight through them. Antiphonal violins halped clarify the musical argument; ensemble was a reminder of just what to-flight orchestras really can do.

The piano concerto (Prokofiev's Second) brought Gergiev onto home turf. The main problem was the soloist, Yefim Bronfman, who clearly does not hold subtlety in high esteem. This was a pounding account, and throughout I found myself wishing for some bass richness from the piano. Only the third movement Intermezzo (there are four movements) brought any sensitivity forth from Bronfman. It was, unsurprisingly, in the clear virtuosity of the finale that Bronfman flourished. A great shame
, as the orchestral contribution had much to recommend it - huge brass in the first movement and a truly memorable bassoon solo in the more lyrical stretches of the finale stand out.

Gergiev's Tchaikovsky Pathétique with the VPO on disc is a wonderful achievement (the Fifth in that series even more so). There was no doubting Gergiev's grasp of the basic ethos of the score, for throughout there was an astonishing naturalness. The orchestra felt this, too, for this was the best playing of the evening, with the solo clarinet diminuendo
-ing to inaudibility, the brass shooting forth sforzando bullets. Gergiev's  Pathétique does not alow for much light – the usually conciliatory second subject brought little balm here.

I suspect the staccati of the Scherzo did not dance deliberately, leaving the way for the progressive brightening of the Intermezzo (this latter ended in a blaze of light). Gergiev opted not to milk the finale (it was a slow three beats to a bar rather than six). Its strength came from the glorious, burnished string tone and its feeling of unstoppable progress, culminating in an inc
endiary climax and the inevitable fall off into the obsessive repetitions ofthe double-basses.

No encore was necesary, but we got one anyway (from The Sleeping Beauty, I believe). This was superfluous. The Tchaikovsky takes one on a long and profound journey, one whose aftermath should resonate with the listener long after the music has faded into nothingness. Any further music negates this.

Colin Clarke

Back to Top                                                    Cumulative Index Page