Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

Prokofiev’s Third Symphony is one of his very greatest works, as is The Fiery Angel, an opera not staged during the composer’s lifetime, hence him rescuing some terrific music for the concert work – unearthly, sinister, clangorous, thrillingly climactic. Gustavo Gimeno (music director in Luxembourg and Toronto) rather held back at the beginning, softening the edges while exploiting the score’s inner workings, the BBCSO very responsive, vivid certainly if a little soft-grained, not uncompromising enough, if ideal for the eerie impressionism of the second movement. The surreptitious scurrying (aleatoric in effect) of the Scherzo-like successor with the ‘trio’ glowing darkly were also persuasive, the return of the opening music intensified with ghostly knocking. The Finale mirrored the reservations noted for first movement and, anyway, it’s difficult to forget the performance given during Proms 2016 by this Orchestra conducted by the much-missed Covid-claimed Alexander Vedernikov.

Hollywood featured in the first half, beginning with some of Bernard Herrmann’s music for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958, with James Stewart and Kim Novak), immediately nightmarish, troubled tension sustained in this graphic and widescreen realisation, the BBCSO strings especially impressive, images conjured, leaving no doubt that the movie is a “psychological thriller” and that the leading characters’ love will end tragically.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto (1947, premiered and recorded by Heifetz) – replacing the UK premiere of Mason Bates’s Piano Concerto, soloist Daniil Trifonov having withdrawn – shares with earlier material used by Korngold when scoring movies. It’s a generously melodic and suggestive work, which Vadim Gluzman played ardently if sometimes with strained tone and slightly off intonation, and the odd difficulty, if spinning an embracing line in the slow movement (the rapt atmosphere disrupted by clapping), the BBCSO and Gimeno inveigling the listener with carefully crafted details, dynamics and tints. The rollicking Finale was beneficially articulate, a credits-rolling grandeur, and an exciting dash to the finishing post, following which Gluzman played the deeply expressive Serenade by his fellow-Ukrainian Valentin Silvestrov, for which time stood still. Haunting.