Tonight’s programme is an all Russian affair. The orchestra welcomes back one of its previous Principal Conductors, Russian Alexander Lazarev. Rachmaninov’s rarely performed Caprice bohémien, composed in the 1890s, starts the concert, but this is not the exotic hedonistic bohemia of France or Italy; the Russian title means a caprice on gypsy folk tunes, and these are used to great effect. An exciting piece, and one where Lazarev makes the orchestra—and the strings in particular—sound very Russian: a revelation!
Last week saw the orchestra play Ravel’s piano concerto for the left hand; tonight, Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky performs Prokofiev’s left hand piano concerto: a different sort of piece altogether. The outer movements are wild expressions of fast and ferocious writing, whilst the inner two are much more weighty; the music is often very dissonant and daring. Lugansky’s terrific virtuosity is matched by the shining orchestral playing.
The concert ends with more Prokofiev, this time a selection of movements from his 1945 ballet Cinderella, which is musically very much in the Russian ballet style of Tchaikovsky. The music is elegant and akin to his music for Romeo and Juliet. The orchestra are on top form, especially the percussion, which is used a lot, and Lazarev conducts with his usual energy and panache. An inventive programme all round.