This past Saturday was the first of our season's concerts at the Accademia and it was nice to exchange greetings with a few of the regulars who we recognize from past seasons including the rather courtly gentleman who sits to our left. However we noticed that the pleasant couple who always sit in front of us weren't there - I know they had a full concert series (26 concerts) last year maybe like us they decided to only do one of the half series.
Our series got of to a good start with Antonio Pappano conducting the first in a string of all Russian concerts under the umbrella title Passione Russa.
The evening began a trifle slowly with Anatoli Lyadov's The Enchanged Lake - a morose little tone poem that set both Laurent and our friend to the left into the land of Nod. There didn't seem to be much passion - Russian or Italian in either Lyadov's composing or Pappano's reading though the strings had their accustomed shimmering tone.
The last item on the programme was the Tchaikovsky - I love the Italian spelling Čajkovskij with a little moon over the C - Symphony n. 4. If the programme notes are correct this was the 82nd time the orchestra had tackled the work since they first performed it in 1910. It was their second time under Pappano the first being in 2006. I often find Pappano's conducting a bit over the top - too much molto forte, to much pianissimo, not much in between - and this was again the case. But he coaxed a wonderful reading of the pizzicato Scherzo movement from the players. I had never been more aware of the humour in the extended section for plucked strings. It was almost tongue-in-cheek in its light-heartiness. After such a subtle reading of that movement it was rather jarring to hear Pappano's bombastic treatment of the Finale. A good performance that could have - had the other three movements been as brilliant as the Scherzo - verged on great.
Sandwich between was the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto 4 performed with the Norwegian pianist Lief Ove Andsnes. Even though Rachmaninoff is not to my taste - I find his music often seems too "Hollywood" - Andsnes gave amble proof as to why he is considered one of today's top young pianists.
Here he is playing the Greig Piano Concerto No. 1 with the BBC Symphony at one of the Proms concerts.
Granted Slatkin isn't really a conductor that sets the world on fire - he could use a bit of Pappano's bombast - and there are times when the balance needed between orchestra and piano for a concerto are missing but damn Andsnes is one fine pianist. And sort of cute looking too!
04 november - San Carlo Booromeo