Variations

There was a moment of hilarity during Wednesday’s prom, and I don’t mean the usual “heave-ho” as the piano lid was opened. When the leader stood up and played an A to allow the orchestra to tune to the piano, for some reason the audience started to applaud. At this, the leader stood and faced the audience, and with maybe the slightest look of irony on his face, took a solemn bow before going back to his seat.

One of the variations in today’s concert was in the conductor. Mikhail Pletnev pulled out of this performance with the Russian National Orchestra he founded due to his ongoing legal issues, so he was replaced by Andrey Boreyko.

The orchestra played Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with the brilliant Nikolai Lugansky as the soloist, with the sort of heavy, rustic sound that is typical of a Russian Orchestra, making the rhapsody sound somewhat different from previous performances I’ve heard. I thought perhaps this was more authentic, the way Rachmaninov himself would have heard it, but of course that isn’t true as the premiere was by the Philadelphia Orchestra in the States.

I was particularly interested to hear the final piece, Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3, as I have a CD that contains among other things “Theme and Variations from Suite No. 3″. I’ve never been sure whether Suite No. 3 contained other movements, and if so, what they were like. In fact, the Suite begins with three shorter movements. They are pleasant enough but quite unremarkable. It’s hardly surprising the variations are considered a stand-alone work. The Russian orchestra’s sound was just right for the string-heavy Tchaikovsky orchestration, and the finale of the variations fantastic.

Full details of this Prom (and listen online for 7 days) here

Prom 44
Beethoven
Overture ‘Coriolan’
Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
interval
Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3 in G major, Op. 55
Nikolai Lugansky piano
Russian National Orchestra
Andrey Boreyko conductor

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