Sunday 17 July 2011

Proms opening night

We manage to catch most of the 1st night of the Proms in its delayed broadcast on BBC2, though we missed the opening works and started with Benjamin Grosvenor's stupendous performance of Liszt's 2nd Piano Concerto (with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek).

The Liszt seemed to hold few technical difficulties for Grosvenor who played both with power and dexterity. It was also a remarkably mature account for one only 19; it wasn't as dark as some performances, but Grosvenor certainly brought nout the chiaroscuro of the work's interesting corners.

I certainly hope that he manages to keep his career on track and that doing so much so early is not problematic. And he certainly needs to get some visual advice; his choice of shirt was unfortunate, far too heavily styled.

The concluding work was Janáček's Galgolitic Mass with the BBC Symphony Chorus, the BBC Singers, Hibla Gerzmava, Dagmar Pecková, Stefan Vinke and Jan Martiník. In the orchestral intro Bělohlávek brought out both the work's lyricism and the punchy, fan-fare like qualities.

Soprano Gerzmava and tenor Vinke both gave strong service in the opening moments. Gerzmava's voice having an attractive Slavic edge without too much vibrato beat which can cause problems in this work, she was powerful but nicely lyric as well. Vinke managed the impossible tenor park brilliantly, giving a creditable heroic edge to the music rather than an edgy bleat.

Both Pecková and Martiník were underused by Janáček, but made short but telling contributions.

Organist David Goode played superbly and gave the Royal Albert Hall organ its head.

Of the chorus I am less certain. Bělohlávek used the BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Singers without any extra choruses, so numerically they were less than I would have expected to be used at the Royal Albert Hall. Their performance was technically spot on, in a tricky work but lacked the punch, edge and weight that I would have liked. Perhaps this lyrical quality was what Bělohlávek wanted but it sat oddly with the way he encouraged the huge brass department to knock out Janáček's lie and fanfares.

Even so, this was and engrossing and exciting performance and good to see such a work on prime time TV>

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