qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

The Rest is Noise

Prom 55 was the first visit of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra to the Proms, and the last concert with conductor Antoni Wit as their Artistic Director. The programme was an interesting mix of Polish and Russian works from the 1930s to 1950s, mostly new to me.

First was Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra, somewhat folk-inspired to ensure official approval. It was interesting to follow the themes passing around the orchestra. On occasion I heard suggestive hints that wouldn't have been out of place in John Barry's Enigma soundtrack, interesting considering the latter's Polish aspects. Next was the piece that probably drew me particularly to this concert, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. The programme notes were a little dismissive of the work technically; but both Shostakovich piano concerti are just great fun as far as I am concerned. There was a very enthusiastic "Heave-Ho!" as the piano lid was lifted, and leader Ewa Marczyk took the traditional applause for her "A" in good spirit. Alexander Melnikov did his best in the visual as well as the aural department; despite having a score and carefully turning pages, he spent most of his time looking away from the piano altogether, and had something of a rabbit-in-headlights visage. I wondered if he was really comfortable with the work; the pace was perhaps a little on the slow side, though nothing to complain about. He seemed more relaxed in giving an encore of a Debussy prelude.

The second half began with two further new works for me: Panufnik's Tragic Overture and Lullaby. The first of these was in some ways deceptive, although it shared with Holst's Mars a certain sense of foreboding, and had an apocalyptic final 12-tone chord. Given that this was written by "invitation" of the authorities under German occupation it's quite a remarkable statement. The Lullaby featured a much reduced set of performers and once again passed a tune from one instrument to another, with a hazy, chromatic background. The final work on the programme was Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6, unusual for its long, slow first movement followed by two short upbeat ones. The programme notes are, of course, speculative of political overtones and hidden meanings; but even they admit, "Had Shostakovich written a scherzo finale that was not truly funny, the satirical intent of the Sixth Symphony would have failed". It went down well enough, and then there was more: we had encores from Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and Lutosławski's Little Suite.
Tags: music
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