Tugan Sokhiev

Friday, September 15, 2023

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

For the first of its two concerts at the Enescu Festival (the second is tomorrow), Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Antonio Pappano, music director; Daniel Harding, designate) was conducted by Tugan Sokhiev in Symphonies by Enescu and Tchaikovsky.

George Enescu’s E-flat First (Opus 13; 1905; premiered in Paris conducted by Colonne) opens boldly (pairs of cornets and trumpets to the fore), striding purposefully and romantically, also with the suggestion of a narrative within the symphonic development, scored powerfully, yet not without melting lyricism. The slow movement also suggests a storyline, initially sinister if becoming radiant and expressive, and the Finale is rather weighty, perhaps lacking a sense of direction, if not without drama and certainly intriguing. This performance – of panache, warmth and vividness (the tambourine got a bashing!) – suggested an impressive symphonic debut for the composer.

Sokhiev’s conducting of Tchaikovsky Five proved involving – heavy of heart from the clarinets in the introduction, then a mix of determination and (rather wallowed) nostalgic ardour, followed by an Andante cantabile that leaned to Adagio if notable for a shapely horn solo, refulgent strings, and – passions brewing – a heady climax and a ferocious outburst from the brass. The third-movement ‘Valse’ swirled stylishly, the middle section agile. Sokhiev avoided false rhetoric to launch the Finale, more a statement of intent to vanquish fate, the music sometimes steaming ahead to reach its goal, which it did in grand style.

As an encore a sweetly affectionate rendition of Elgar’s Salut d’amour. As a second encore, a dashing ‘Trepak’ from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.