qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

  • Music:

"I hope you are not well"

At least, that is how his musical friends greeted chemist and composer Borodin, as it would mean he had more time to spend on his musical efforts. The opening work in Prom 41 was Borodin's Symphony No. 2, once a Proms favourite but apparently not performed here since 1971, although I recall attending a performance at Newcastle City Hall in the late 1980s. The London Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Valery Gergiev. I had heard that he conducted with a cocktail stick but had assumed that was one of those urban legends, or possibly something that happened only in rehearsals, but now I can confirm I've seen it for myself. (Allegedly the idea is that the orchestra has to pay close attention). The opening was perhaps a little surprisingly smooth, but overall it was an effective performance. This was followed up by an unfamiliar work, Glazunov's Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist Daniil Trifonov, who frankly made Matt Smith look about retirement age. The piece was light and generally reminiscent of Tchaikovsky, although it dates from 1917. Trifonov gave a spectacular encore, a piano version of the Infernal Dance from Stravinsky's The Firebird. Clearly one to watch for the future.

The second half began with the UK premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina's The Rider on the White Horse. I had pondered that this might have something to do with Marshal Zhukov's ride during the 1945 Victory Parade in Moscow, especially since Gubaidulina studied under Shostakovich for a time and it would therefore carry an anti-Stalin resonance. But according to the programme notes, it's taken from a longer piece, St John Easter, and is based on the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book or Revelation. Certainly the piece had an apocalyptic air to it, though some passages were more spectral and melodic. I enjoyed the previous Gubaidulina piece I'd heard at the Proms several years ago, The Light of the End, and I liked this one too.

Finally, we had another trusty war-horse: Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Actually, I have CDs of the Stokowski and Henry Wood orchestrations, but not the Ravel, so it was rather fresher for me than might have been expected. Gergiev came perilously close to joining in with the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks, and there were some grunts throughout. He's not one of my favourite conductors, but there's no denying this was a cracking programme and an excellent performance.
Tags: music
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