Thursday, September 7, 2023

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

The Israel Philharmonic’s second Festival appearance concluded with Brahms’s First Symphony, a big-boned spacious account led by Lahav Shani if not without gutsy attack or emotional drama, although the opening movement seemed longer than usual, even without the exposition repeat. The succeeding Andante was given Adagio treatment, well-upholstered in sound, with distinguished violin, horn and woodwind solos, followed by a placidly expressive Intermezzo. The opening of the Finale could have had greater suspense, and although the melody that emerges could not have been nobler, the journey to the triumphant coda was just a little cursory.

I was impressed at this year’s Proms by Alexandre Kantorow,, and now again in Prokofiev’s mysterious and maleficent Second Piano Concerto and not just in the apocalyptic first-movement cadenza, which was an uninhibited maelstrom of notes, four hands needed; subtlety, too, and it is required from time to time amidst the rapacious rhythms and macabre machinations, played fearlessly with steely brilliance, backed to the hilt by the IPO and Shani. Kantorow’s encores were the end of Stravinsky’s Firebird (as London) transcribed by Guido Agosti and something impressionistic unknown to me, but the composer could only be Liszt, water-coloured by Kantorow.

Starting with Enescu’s wonderful Romanian Rhapsody No.1, the visitors paying tribute to the native composer and his country, the opening nicely expressive and dreamy, becoming picturesque if not quite exuberant enough. In this of all pieces Celibidache cannot be overlooked, a performance of Opus 11/1,, that brings his admirers and detractors into an agreeing huddle.

Following the Brahms, there were two IPO encores, an orchestration of Mendelssohn’s ‘Spinning Song’ (Opus 67/4, from Songs Without Words) and a teasing rendition of Johann II & Josef Strauss’s Pizzicato Polka.