I'll say that again.
I know that I have missed a Prom (which I'll review shortly), but I need to write this one down. It was a real spur-of-the-moment decision, prompted by the fact that the Prokofiev is possibly the greatest, certainly my favourite, piano concerto of them all. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
It sounds like a cliché, but sometimes it takes a Russian orchestra to really play a Russian symphony.
I went to see the Prokofiev, and was mildly - disappointed isn't the right word; I enjoyed it - underwhelmed. Alexander Toradze seemed to be putting a colossal amount of effort into his performance, but, particularly in the first movement, it all seemed to be dissipating somewhere inside the piano. The initial solo entrance ought to sweep you off your feet rather in the way an express train in the small of the back would; I was convinced he'd missed his cue. Several times in the first movement, I wondered if my hearing was going as I strained to catch the nuances of Toradze's playing; perhaps I am being uncharitable - I was standing in the arena directly in front of the cellos and basses; perhaps the deep resonances of the low strings was affecting what I could hear. Also, to be fair, the delicate touch suited the second movement very well, and the third seemed to be back on track - or perhaps I had become a little more attuned to it. And the applause at the end of the first movement seemed genuine enough; not simply prompted by the soloist becoming airborne at the end.
So maybe it was me. Certainly, I was hoping to see something a bit special in the second half to make up for it. And, boy did I get something a bit special.
Shostakovich's 4th symphony remains a controversial work. Suppressed for 25 years because of its overt criticism of the Stalinist regime, and not exactly a staple of the repertoire since, it is a work which I was almost entirely unfamiliar. It spoke to me in the hall last night as only one piece of music has before (Mahler 2, in case you were wondering). Gergiev having been mostly obscured by the piano in the first half, I was slightly surprised to see this tortured soul take the stand dressed like a trendy anglican vicar. But as soon as he raised the baton everything fell into place. The orchestra, despite it being their third major work in just over 24 hours, were precise and controlled where required; free and full of expression in other places, and positively swung through the ending of the second movement. People sometimes ask me how a piece of music can say anything, to which I can only reply that you haven't really been listening - I defy anyone not to have been swept along with the impotent rage of the third movement; order and chaos vying for supremacy until the titanic finale squeezes the last breath from the lungs, and slowly ebbs away. leaving the despairing rythym of the strings, and the plaintive few notes of the celesta. Gergiev's control was complete - he took us to the edge and left us peering into the abyss as he slowly slipped away into the night. It's an ending which demands a moment of silence from the audience, and it got somewhere in the region of 20 seconds, during which I swear no-one breathed. I know I didn't. Then, uproar. Gergiev called back again and again, finally, having got a curtain call from every last member of the orchestra, offering us the score - the cheer rattled the glass in the dome. Magnificent.
It's another one for the long list of things I need to own. *sigh*