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SEEN AND HEARD UK CONCERT REVIEW
Lyadov, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky: Alexander Gavrylyuk (piano), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Andrey Boreyko (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 4.2.2011 (SRT)
Lyadov: The Enchanted Lake
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Pathétique
For the second time in a week the RSNO showcased how to sound just like a Russian orchestra. After last week’s sensuous, pulsating Rachmaninov, we got an all-Russian programme, this time served up by a Russian conductor. Andrey Boreyko is a new name to me and I suspect he was making his debut with the RSNO, but the orchestra clearly loved playing for him. There was warmth, communication and plenty of Russian passion on display, especially in Prokofiev’s kaleidoscopic third concerto where they were joined by Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk. This was a musical partnership that undoubtedly worked, the sense of cooperation palpable throughout. Gavrylyuk’s predominantly lyrical style played up the legato with sustained flashes of brilliance, while the conductor sometimes moved his body like an oriental dancer in drawing out the composer’s rhythms and quirky humour. Meanwhile the strings revelled in both the Romantic textures and the grinding gear changes Prokofiev writes for them, while the winds and brass acted like a semi-comical chorus commenting on the action. In these hands the second movement theme and variations sounded like a march from a miniature ballet, each variation taking us further into a less controlled, more dangerous world. The central section of the finale sounded both dreamy and majestic, while the outer sections were madcap and a little unhinged: I suspect Prokofiev would have approved.
The curtain-raiser, Lyadov’s Enchanted Lake, was originally conceived as an interlude to a never written opera about a water nymph. It’s pleasing to the ear, with lots of gently swirling strings, but very little happens, like in the opening section of Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea. It’s a good warm-up for the two energetic works that came later, but it isn’t a piece I’ll seek out again.
If, on the other hand, it’s Russian passion you want, it doesn’t come more intense than in Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique. The orchestra played out of their skins here, sounding better than I’ve heard them in a while. The second movement flowed without sounding too comfortable while the third built in a rising tide of excitement, controlled superbly by Boreyko. The highlight of the whole evening, however, came with the lyrical second theme of the first movement, beautifully understated yet suffused with unfulfilled longing. After an opening statement of quiet intensity, the clarinet solo faded down to nothing before the music was shredded in the savagery of the headlong development section; then when the lyrical theme returned it sounded altogether more tentative, questioning and uncertain. Similarly the power of the finale sounded unstoppable, set on a course for doom which nothing could alter. Like last week the strings swelled and ached with passion throughout the symphony, but this time the brass sounded more together and much sharper in their role in the action. Boreyko wrung every ounce of passion out of the work, even calculating Tchaikovsky’s all-important pauses to propel the drama forward.