Sunday, 23 August 2015

19 August, 2015 BBC Prom No 45 RPO, Dutoit and Leonskaja ****

Elisabeth Leonskaja

It’s been 30 years, the programme informs us, since Elisabeth Leonskaja performed at the Proms, but it give us no clue as to why this great Russian pianist who worked with Slatislav Richter has been absent for so long. Ignored, forgotten, invitations turned down? It’s odd because Leonskaja is a consummate artist with a huge and loyal following. Her Mozart (Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K482)  was beautifully subtle and attuned to the warmer more intimate orchestral hues of this concerto (Mozart used clarinets instead of oboes), and when pressed into an encore gave a fluid account of the Chopin D Flat major nocturne.

Charles Dutoit is a real magician when working with a band he knows well. Under his baton the RPO were in sparkling form in the Shostakovich’s 15th Symphony, especially in the first movement which is a delightfully witty, and at times funny, take on Rossini’s William Tell Overture. The alternation between orchestral tuttis and very sparse orchestration (at times just one instrument), and the constant interplay between instruments and sections, including a large contingent of percussion, demands absolute precision and clarity, and the orchestra delivered in spades. The second movement mixes dark brass choral like chords with free-flowing solos for the leader and principal cello. The last two movements are less engaging, but nevertheless the beautifully nuanced playing of the LPO was captivating. 

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