Prokofiev and Shostakovich at their edgiest

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Ricordanza
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Prokofiev and Shostakovich at their edgiest

Post by Ricordanza » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:56 pm

My report on Saturday night’s Philadelphia Orchestra concert begins on Thursday morning, December 1, when I attended an open rehearsal led by music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Indicating a spot in the score of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, Yannick asked the musicians to repeat the passage and to be more “rude.” This seemed like an odd direction at first, but it made sense when I heard the entire piece in concert.

This isn’t the Shostakovich one hears in the frothy “Festive Overture” or the triumphal Symphony No. 5. Rather, it’s Shostakovich at his edgiest, in a work replete with sardonic touches, glaring dissonances and anxiety-filled passages. But this hour-long work is endlessly fascinating. It’s also a real test for an orchestra, with its fiendish complexity. One of the most challenging sections has to be the crazy fugue in the first movement, which starts with the violins playing extremely high and extremely fast, and eventually engulfs the entire orchestra in an intense conflagration.

The Philadelphians, enhanced by extra players (for example, I counted nine percussionists) more than met the challenges of this work. There were also some fine solo performances, especially by principal bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa. Overall, Yannick and the orchestra delivered a thrilling performance.

The first work on the program, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, also belongs in the “edgy” category of this composer’s works. Again, for those more familiar with the Prokofiev of “Romeo and Juliet” or “Peter and the Wolf,” this concerto could come as something of a shock, with its angular music and percussive piano passages. It has its lyrical moments, but even those are tinged with a dark hue. Yefim Bronfman was the outstanding soloist in this concerto. He’s the ideal pianist for Prokofiev, with the keyboard command to conquer the formidable technical obstacles, as well as the ability to express the curious blend of harsh and sublime in this concerto. Bronfman’s gifts should be no surprise to Philadelphia audiences, who have had the pleasure of hearing him in concerto appearances and solo recitals for nearly 40 years.

I should note that before beginning the Shostakovich symphony, Yannick and the orchestra made a special presentation to violinist Herbert Light on the occasion of his retirement from the orchestra. Light (a fellow Cherry Hill resident) performed with the orchestra for an incredible 56 years. He received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience.

John F
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Re: Prokofiev and Shostakovich at their edgiest

Post by John F » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:08 pm

The scoring of Shostakovich 4 includes 6 flutists, two playing piccolo. Klemperer was considering the 4th for Berlin and asked Shostakovich if four flutes, 2 doubling piccolo, would be OK - Shostakovich said no.

The Juilliard Orchestra is playing this monster under Alan Gilbert soon. Good luck to them.
John Francis

Ricordanza
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Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
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Re: Prokofiev and Shostakovich at their edgiest

Post by Ricordanza » Wed Dec 07, 2016 8:08 am

John F wrote:The scoring of Shostakovich 4 includes 6 flutists, two playing piccolo. Klemperer was considering the 4th for Berlin and asked Shostakovich if four flutes, 2 doubling piccolo, would be OK - Shostakovich said no.
The program notes for this performance state that the work is scored for four flutes and two piccolos. So it seems that this is incorrect, but Dmitri isn't around to object.

John F
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Re: Prokofiev and Shostakovich at their edgiest

Post by John F » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:37 am

six flutists = 4 flutes plus 2 piccolos (not doubling flutes). It adds up.
John Francis

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