Prokofiev and Myaskovsky

Two less-well-known works performed yesterday evening by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski. Firstly, Danjulo Ishizaka performed Prokofiev's oddly-named Symphony-Concerto in E minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op.125. The work had an odd history, being started in 1933 as a Cello Concerto, abandoned for a time, completed and premiered in 1938, then withdrawn and not performed again until 1951, in a revised version. Finally, after more revisions, the work, now described as a 'Symphony-Concerto', was performed only after the composer's death.

The revised description was on account of the orchestra's expanded rĂ´le, but in fact it didn't strike me as being unusually dominant - certainly less so than in Brahm's Second Piano Concerto, with its extended cello solo. The work manages to be both lyrical and spiky, with a good deal of the cello part being in an extremely high register, and very demanding on the player: Ishizaka gave an exciting and involved performance (breaking a string in the second movement, which caused a few minutes pause while he went off-stage and replaced it - a rare but not unusual event).

Nikolai Myaskovsky's music is very rarely heard: his Sixth Symphony was composed in 1921-3 and is a massive work, running just over an hour and involving a large orchestra and an optional choir in the last movement (present in this performance). The dramatic tone of much of the work was apparently inspired in part by the death of the composer's aunt at the time he began composition; the first movement makes much use of dark-toned repetitive phrases in the lower strings, leading to strong brass chords and a sense of urgency: the second is a demonic scherzo, and the third slow and sadly lyrical: the music is often of indeterminate tonality but still melodic.

The final movement starts in a jolly mood, strongly reminiscent of an Italian carnival (though in fact based on two songs from the French revolution) but gradually becomes more agitated, with quotes from the Dies Irae (the most quoted phrase in musical history, and every composer's shorthand for death). The work's construction is rather unfocused, but it contains much atmospheric music and deserves to be heard more often.

A recording of the concert (presumably minus the broken string) will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on May 5th.

Posted: Thu - April 29, 2010 at 09:11 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM