Monday, 11 August 2008

Prom 34: A Tsar Performance

Another Prom first half that I hadn’t intended to listen to, but am very glad I did. I missed the Symphonic Dances, and reading Evan's review, now regret it bitterly, so I didn't want to potentially make the same mistake again.

If you need to be converted (as I did, which is why I nearly didn't listen to the first half)) to the view that Rachmninov’s First really does have some merit after all, then no-one could have been more convincing than Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic.

It was played just as you might have hoped from reading John Warrack’s pre-prom notes and better than Rachmaninov could ever have imagined. Had he heard this performance (far from sober, but in a totally different way to the first performance!) he might never have destroyed it.

In places, of course, it is too much, and too lush, but the BBCPO’s rich string sound (and beautifully dark-varnished celllos and basses) were never allowed completely to drown the themes, as they could all too easily have done. The presenter was perfectly justified, too in commenting on the ‘Russian’ sound of the brass and woodwind.

If Rachmaninov had really been vowing vengeance on someone on the last movement, the way that was emphasised with pepper-vodka astringency from strings and woodwind, I wouldn’t have cared to be the victim.

But of course, there is an awful lot of over-sugared tea in the Rachmaninov 1 samovar and its obvious youthful excesses, and sometimes over-scored excitability, but again, as exasperating as it can be, it was never allowed to coagulate into mush or go cold. It was transformed, in this performance, however unlikely it might seem, into youthful exuberance.

Noseda was described as being “passionate” about wanting to rehabilitate this symphony, and it showed. The audience greeted it with equal passion: rapturous applause and cheers which was very well deserved.

R3 Relay

Prom 34: Rachmaninov Symphony No1; Gianandrea Noseda, BBC Philharmonic.

(Presumably to make sure the broadcast sound supported Noseda’s obvious desire not to have an overblown sound from the orchestra. some sections were more closely-miked than usual, so, particularly in the first movement there was quite lot of clanking of music stands: though that does show the orchestra was as enthusiastic in its playing as Noseda was about the symphony. And, several dropped programmes—it is amazing what a racket the fluttering pages of just one make in the hall as they fall—and too much throat clearing from the audience. Somehow more intrusive than usual.)

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