Abduraimov and Valčuha gentle up Prokofiev in San Francisco – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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United States Kendall, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff: Behzod Abduraimov (piano), San Francisco Symphony / Juraj Valčuha (conductor). Davies Symphony Corridor, San Francisco, 4.11.2022. (HS)

Behzod Abduraimov © Evgeny Eutykhov

Hannah KendallThe Spark Catchers
Prokofiev – Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor
Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances

Neither pianist Behzod Abduraimov nor conductor Juraj Valčuha are strangers to the San Francisco Symphony stage. Collectively for the primary time right here, they delivered a high-wattage live performance centered on Russian showpieces.

Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances can simply make their factors with high-level execution of their calls for on gamers’ virtuosity. This live performance raised the ante with additional depth, particularly from soloist and conductor, and alert taking part in from the orchestra. Everybody appeared tuned in on the identical frequency in Friday’s live performance in Davies Symphony Corridor, the second efficiency in three of this program.

Abduraimov, who made his San Francisco Symphony debut in 2018 taking part in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3, not solely proved he has the chops to deal with the freakish technical calls for of the composer’s Second Piano Concerto, however he additionally formed them into way more than an athletic exercise. He caressed the sparer, softer sections with heat and humility, which made the explosions of crashing notes (brilliantly articulated) all of the extra impactful.

Juraj Valčuha © Luciano Romano

The concerto itself has a backstory. It was composed in 1913, when Prokofiev was in his twenties, and the unique rating was misplaced in a hearth through the revolution of 1917. The composer rewrote it from reminiscence in 1923 for a re-debut. Reviewers of the primary efficiency weren’t sort, repelled by the cacophonous dissonances and torrents of notes. The second debut, in Paris and performed by Serge Koussevitsky, fared not significantly better.

Abduraimov, now in his thirties, embraced the clangor however discovered a manner via the crowds of notes and showoff virtuosic passages to speak a deeper sense of objective. The lengthy cadenza towards the tip of the primary motion, when the pianist takes over the present for a number of minutes, grew organically from quiet ruminations on tunes and gestures we had simply heard to a crashing and prolonged climax that felt completely justified.

The second motion’s perpetual-motion flurry, which might shortly change into tiresome, had a lot life to it that it truly felt prefer it was too quick. The fierce third motion Intermezzo was relentlessly stressed, as if anxious to get to the larger, broader, boisterous finale. When Abduraimov arrived there, he relished the contrasts between the extra lyrical segments, paying homage to components of the primary motion, and the buildups to towering climaxes.

Valčuha, who debuted at Davies Corridor in 2013, was consistent with the soloist, guiding the orchestra with precision into treacherous tutti with the piano whereas discovering the identical shadings because the soloist did. After one other brilliantly formed cadenza, the rousing, clattering end introduced the rapt viewers to its toes.

When the applause refused to subside after 4 curtain calls, Abduraimov returned to the piano to play a favourite encore of his – ‘La Campanella’ from Liszt’s Paganini Études. He performed the opening octaves with consummate delicacy with out shedding any of Liszt’s bravado, a tour-de-force of a unique model from the Prokofiev. If something, it was much more spectacular.

Rachmaninoff’s final accomplished new work, the Symphonic Dances, was his first in practically a decade. It had totally different features to relish, notably Valčuha’s sleek and expressive conducting. The composer was impressed to put in writing it in 1940 after working with Michel Fokine, the principal choreographer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, on the dance grasp’s ballet, Paganini (set to Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini). Fokine died earlier than he might choreograph this new dance music, however the piece has a swagger and depth that’s unmistakably Rachmaninoff at his rhythmic and sonic peak.

Valčuha’s exact and expansive podium presence captured all that, and the musicians appeared delighted to be alongside on the journey. The opening march gave off a sinister aura and, when the coda turned the nook right into a theme filled with harp and glockenspiel tinkling, it appeared as if all was proper with the world.

The second motion’s waltz glided easily, and brimmed with dusky orchestral colour, particularly from woodwinds and brass, and it was straightforward to think about dancers’ elegant, expressive gestures within the finale. When the brass sneak in references to the ‘Dies Irae’ within the last measures, it didn’t really feel like the standard warning of impending doom however a declaration of persistence and heat.

The live performance’s opener, The Spark Catchers by the English composer Hannah Kendall, received a crisp and detailed studying, even when it was overmatched by what adopted.

Harvey Steiman

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