Photo, Andy Paradise

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Royal Albert Hall, London

Before this Prom for me there had been: and, and the current Enescu Festival has such orchestras lined up as Leipzig Gewandhaus, Concertgebouw, Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Israel Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Santa Cecilia, and others of international standing. In the Festival’s first week, such as WDR Cologne and Maggio Musicale have already been and gone, and

As for Prom 60, the Berlin Radio SO (founded 1923) and Vladimir Jurowski opened with Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, Kurt Weill plundering The Threepenny Opera for its hits, including ‘Mack the Knife’, given a well-behaved outing by the Berliners (winds, and including banjo and guitar), maybe not edgy or satirical enough, and with a couple of numbers on the too quick side.

Thomas Adès’s compact, three-movement Piano Concerto, written for Kirill Gerstein, is a success story in terms of numbers of performances, including London, and already recorded, Suffice to say that it’s a compelling work of incidents and allusions (if not as gripping or as impactful as Adès’s Totentanz, also on the above recording) and was given a seasoned rendition by Gerstein (who also took part in the Weill) and his thoroughly rehearsed confreres.

As an encore Gerstein offered his well-made transcription of a Rachmaninov song, very nice, which became a bridge to his Third Symphony, my Desert Island Rachmaninov, Jurowski favouring its austere side (it can do Hollywood as well), and he omitted the first-movement exposition repeat (yes, so too the composer on his 1938 Philadelphia recording, but he also marks the repetition in the score and writes lead-back bars) as part of a reading that held the attention through fine playing, although Jurowski’s flexible tempos could be a little perplexing in the outer movements; best was the middle one, nostalgic balm to the ear, with the scherzo-like section especially bejewelled, the percussion crescendo powerful and precise.

Rachmaninov also provided a second extra, the C-sharp minor Prelude extravagantly orchestrated by Henry Wood (no doubt pseudonym-ing as Paul Klenovsky back then), powerful stuff. Is the RAH roof still on?