A genial evening at the RFH
ll three works in yesterday evening's concert at the Royal Festival Hall were characterized by a sunny disposition. The opener, Berlioz's overture to the opera Béatrice et Bénédict sparkles with the wit inspired by Shakespeare's play (Much Ado About Nothing): the Philharmonia Orchestra was conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
The second work has long been a favourite of mine: Nicolai Medtner's Second Piano Concerto. It's not well known (and caution about it may have been the reason that the hall was half empty) but deserves a much wider audience. Medtner was born in Russia in 1879 and established himself as a composer there but left in 1921, settling in Paris and then England.
The Second Piano Concerto was begun in 1920 and premiered in 1927 during his last return to Moscow. Though he is often compared to Rachmaninov, and there are similarities, his concertos avoid the sadness which underly Rachmaninov's. The Second is bursting with thematic ideas: though dramatic in places it soon succumbs to enthusiasm and geniality with intertwined themes and a couple of joky fugues. The pianist was Boris Berezovsky: he has a light and fluid touch uncommon in most pianists, who tend to the brilliant ('pianistic typists' was the phrase coined by a collector friend of mine) - as with the Rachmaninov concerto I praised him for in a previous post he gave an engaging and charming performance of this spectacular and complex work.
The evening was completed by an excellent performance of Dvořák's Sixth Symphony - his most genial and sunny symphony: one could almost see and smell the Bohemian meadows and fields which were always his inspiration. Possibly the Scherzo was taken a little fast - though it is marked Presto and is also described in the score as a 'Furiant' so there is a strong case for a fast speed - and in any case it never sounded rushed.
On this occasion I was sitting in the third row of the balcony: the sound up there used to be somewhat boxy, but since the refurbishment it is warm and detailed - very nearly as good as in the much more expensive stalls seats. And the free wi-fi works up there (I don't think it does in the stalls) - I was able to chat to a friend on Skype in the interval: so good value for money as well as a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Posted: Fri - May 30, 2008 at 09:13 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM