Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra opened with a light and airy Overture from Borodin’s Prince Igor that perhaps lacked that last degree of Russian flavour, something that couldn’t be said of their performance of Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances which were full of Russianness with Noseda and the BBC PO providing some beautifully idiomatic playing. The orchestra were on top form in the boisterous sections with some terrific playing from the BBC PO woodwinds section.
Whilst not as popular as his third piano concerto, Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor Op.16 is in many ways equally fine. Perhaps it is the sheer technical difficulties that mitigate against it. French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet www.bavouzet.com was certainly up for the challenge with some lovely playing in the deceptively broad and simple opening to the Andantino. When the Allegretto arrived, Bavouzet showed lovely phrasing, with playing that was well-paced and intensely virtuosic in this fiendishly difficult movement. Just occasionally, Bavouzet sounded a little exposed in some of the huge chords but in the short second movement Scherzo: Vivace he showed sparkling pin point accuracy. The Intermezzo: Allegro Moderato received a fiery performance with Bavouzet fully in command of Prokoviev’s metronomic rhythms and Noseda and the BBC PO giving some terrific support. The Finale: Allegro tempestuoso with its almost manic opening had one on the edge of one’s seat. Bavouzet’s beautiful playing of the quieter moments was lovely and the way that pianist and orchestra built the music up slowly was brilliantly done. The cadenza was magically conceived, building as it did from poetic to virtuoso before rushing manically to the formidable coda with Bavouzet on terrific form.
Bavouzet really brought out the poetry in Prokoviev’s concerto, showing himself to be a poet as well as a virtuoso pianist.
The second half of tonight’s Prom featured the World Premiere of British composer, Edward Cowie’s www.edward-cowie.com Earth Music 1: The Great Barrier Reef, a BBC Commission. Crashing orchestral sounds with percussion opened the work, conjuring up a massive seascape. There were many lovely individual instrumental sounds as the music calmed and quietened with Cowie magically evoking the ocean depths by use of repeated descending phrases and delicate orchestral sounds. There was always the feeling of activity within the quieter moments with the music rising and falling before quiet muted brass led to a magical coda with hushed orchestra and woodwind flourishes.
The evening ended with a terrific performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor Op. 17 ‘Little Russian’. Noseda gave us a lovely broad Andante Sostenuto with a very Slavic flavour. As the movement developed with the Allegro Vivo, Noseda and the BBC PO proved to be a formidable combination with gutsy playing, taut and dynamic. There was a beautifully taut second movement with its well-known march theme and a beautifully developed string theme where Noseda and the orchestra brought out so much of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful orchestration. A vibrantly rhythmic Allegro Molto Vivace followed, full of life with a playful trio section. There was a fabulous finale with the BBC PO blazing out in the opening before the lovely jaunty little melody that contrasts. Noseda and the BBC PO were a delight as Tchaikovsky’s orchestral variations worked to combine the two themes before the tam tam heralded a tremendous coda.
This was another fine concert in what is turning out to be a memorable season.