Tchaikovsky and Kalinnikov

The Revealing Tchaikovsky series at the Royal Festival Hall continued yesterday evening with two lesser-known works. The concerts include music by other composers as well as Tchaikovsky: the concert opened with Rimsky-Korsakov's Suite from The Tale of Tsar Saltan, and then we heard Tchaikovsky's 3rd Piano Concerto. This was incomplete at his death: it had started life as a draft for a symphony before he decided to recast it as a concerto. He completed the first movement, and this is what is normally heard. After his death his former student Sergei Taneyev completed it, working from two further movements of the symphony.

Though the first movement works well enough, the others are less successful. Tchaikovsky would presumably have re-worked them rather more than Taneyev did, and the change from pure orchestra to piano and orchestra doesn't always come off: some of the orchestration is muddled and the whole thing sounds like a work in progress; but worth hearing for its rarity value. The soloist was Alexander Markovich, who played with feeling and a strong technique, but whose climaxes tended to become diffuse - not helped by an excess of pedal.

The concert concluded with the First Symphony by Vasily Kalinnikov (1866-1901), who Tchaikovsky had recommended for a conducting post but who was short-lived, dying at the age of 36. The Symphony has a lot of charm, though some of the melodic lines are not as lyrical as they aspire to be, and there is altogether too much reliance on repetition - both the repeated bars to build up tension trick, and repetition of whole sections. The Scherzo is the most successful movement, lively and tuneful, and the whole symphony is well and imaginatively orchestrated.

It was played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Neeme Järvi: slighly oddly, the most popular piece in the Rimsky-Korsakov Suite, The Flight of the Bumble Bee, was held over until the end of the concert and played as an encore. Lasting only about 90 seconds, it's quite suitable as an encore, but did the Kalinnikov no favours: it's not a decision I'd like to see become a habit.

Posted: Sun - November 2, 2008 at 09:06 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM