Of major interest in tonight’s concert is the appearance of the RSNO’s new principal guest conductor, Elim Chan. Chan stood in last season as a guest conductor, and proved a big hit with both the orchestra and the audience, so was offered the role of principal guest conductor. In addition, she is a guest conductor with other orchestras across the world. She gives a very nice introduction to herself and tonight’s programme on the microphone before the concert.
The concert begins with Dukas’s lovely work The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which readers may remember from Walt Disney’s Fantasia, featuring Mickey Mouse as the Apprentice! Chan shows she is going to be a very lively conductor but still very much in control of the orchestra, and the musicians clearly respond well to her, making it a colourful opening work.
This is followed by the young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 2. Grosvenor first made a name for himself when he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004 aged 11! Since then, he has become a well known concert pianist across the world. He gives a very nuanced performance of the Chopin, and Chan and the orchestra seem to be very much in harmony with him. Grosvenor gets a very warm reception from a big Usher Hall audience and rewards us with a very sweet encore by Rachmaninov, who is the main composer of the evening with his Symphonic Dances.
Rachmaninov wrote this final orchestral work in 1940 in America, which had become his home, but the programme notes by Jan Smaczny suggest that he borrowed some elements from earlier works including a ballet which never saw completion. It is a spirited performance which gets a warm response. We are clearly going to see much more of Chan in future, and on the basis of tonight’s concert, that can only be a good thing.