Kulturkompasset | critics of culture events

NIKOLAÏ DEMIDENKO with Rachmaninoff 2 at TCE, Paris


Nikolaï Demidenko, brilliant piansoloist in Rachmaninoff 2. pianoconcerto. Photo Mercedes Segovia

ROMANTIQUE FAIRYTALE ATMOSPHAERE at Theatre des Champs elysees with Orchestra Nationale de France, brilliant conducted by the Japanese conductor Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi. The programme was Rachmaninoffs 2nd Pianoconcerto with Nikolaï Demidenko as soloist and after the break Tsjaikovskijs 5th Symphony. It became a fairytale evening and the fully packed concerthouse audience enjoyed it. The concert was send directly at France Musique.

By Henning Høholt

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor,opus 18, is a concerto for pano and orchestra composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff between the autumn of 1900 and April 1901. The second and third movements were first performed with the composer as soloist on 2 December 1900. The complete work was premiered, again with the composer as soloist, on 9 November 1901, with his cousin Alexander Siloti conducting. This piece is one of Rachmaninoff’s most enduringly popular pieces, and established his fame as a concerto composer. It is written in three-movement concerto form.

It all started in c minor, with a very harmonic opening which begins with a series of bell-like tollings on the piano that build tension, eventually climaxing in the introduction of the main theme. In this first section, the orchestra carries the Russian-character melody while the piano makes an accompaniment made of rapid oscillating arpeggios. After the statement of the long first theme, a quicker transition follows until the lyrical second theme, in E flat major, is presented. The agitated and unstable development borrows motives from both themes changing keys very often and giving the melody to different instruments while a new musical idea is slowly formed. The music builds in a gradual climax as if the first bars were to be repeated, but in the recapitulation the theme is presented as unique to the first statement.

While the orchestra restates the first theme, the piano, that in the other occasion had an accompaniment role, now plays the march-like theme that had been halfly presented in the development, thus making a considerable readjustment in the exposition, as the main theme, played by the orchestra has become an accompaniment. This is followed by a piano solo, which leads into a descending chromatic passage. The nearly filmmusic like  sound which is remarkable for this concerto . Brilliantly played pianoparts , good dialogue with the solo Cello and  and concluding with an eerie French horn solo. well formed. From here the last minutes of the movement are placid until drawn into the agitated coda, and the movement ends in C minor fortissimo.

Again i got the wonderful feeling that I had, when I first time heard this pianoconcerto recorded in Norway in 1964 in a small cottage in a forest overlooking the sea side a cold anuary night with a lot of snow surrounding the house.

The second movement adagio sostenuto, piú animato, opens with a series of slow chords in the strings which modulate from the c minor of the previous movement to the E major of this movement. The piano enters, playing a simple arpeggiated figure. The main theme is initially introduced by the flute, before being developed by an extensive dialogue between the solo Clarinet like a beautiful lace between piano and violinpizzicato. The motif is passed between the piano and other soloists before the music accelerates to a short climax centred on the piano. The original theme is repeated, and the music appears to die away, finishing with just the soloist in E major. Remarkable beautiful details in the cadenza. What a romantic ballet this music could be used for.

The last movement, allegro scerzando, opens with a short orchestral introduction that modulates from E (the key of the previous movement) to C, before a piano solo leads to the statement of the agitated first theme. After the original fast tempo and musical drama ends, a lyrical theme is introduced by the oboe and violas. This second theme maintains the motif of the first movement’s second theme. After a long period of development tension is built up considerably. Near the end, Rachmaninoff restates the second theme in loud, fortissimo orchestration. After this, a fast, ecstatic coda draws the piece to a close, ending in C major.

The cooperation with the Orchestra National de France and its guest conductor Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi was outstanding.

The ovations from the audience was generously honoured with two enchores.

After the break the fairytale atmosphaere continued with Tsjaikovskijs 5. Symphony, Composed the same year as The Sleeping Beauty, but I allways get an Eugen Onegin feeling when I hear the second part in the opening . In fact it should have been a Sleeping Beauty feeling. 1st part ends deliciously in the deepest base tunes, and gthe conductor, who conducted it “con amore” gave the orchestra good time to get it to sound beautifully.

The second part opens with a demanding French horn solo, continuing in a dialogue with the different wooden soloists, when the strings are continuing building up the opening theme. Itwas magic how mr. Kobayashi managed to get the orchestra to follow his ideas and how well it sounded. Some times the tempi was faster and more demanding for the orchestra and its precision than I am used to, but it worked well and was a great success. To the applause mr Kobayashi performed an applause show with the orchestra particiåationg in the best Japanese way.

Biography NIKOLAÏ DEMIDENKO:

Nikolai Demidenko is a celebrated piano virtuoso, considered a leading exponent of the Russian school of playing. His blend of technical brilliance and musical vision have earned him consistent raves since he first emerged on the international scene in the mid-1980s, and he has become a musical fixture in his adopted home of Great Britain, where he gained citizenship in 1995.

Demidenko began playing before the age of five, learning on his grandfather’s old, beaten-up piano. By the age of six, he was a student of Anna Kantor (Evgeny Kissin’s teacher) at the Gnessin School of Music. An obstinate student who disliked scales and technique, Demidenko still made swift progress, and he eventually entered the Moscow Conservatory. There, he studied with Dmitri Bashkirov, whom Demidenko credits with fostering his more individual qualities as a player, as well as ironing out the remaining wrinkles in his technique. Reaching the finals of both the 1976 Montreal competition and the 1978 Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow (where he played through an acute case of the flu) served as a final springboard to professional recognition.

A 1985 tour with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra introduced Demidenko to the West, and in particular Great Britain, where he would become a resident in 1990. While teaching piano at the University of Surrey, Demidenko has steadily built an international career of the highest caliber, playing concertos with many of Europe’s greatest orchestras and conductors, and playing a landmark series of recitals in London’s Wigmore Hall. His recordings of Medtner, Mussorgsky, and Busoni have been particularly well-received, and he has established himself as a leading interpreter of Liszt and Chopin. Demidenko has also ventured into earlier composers, such as Bach, Mozart, and Scarlatti, playing with a degree of rhythmic freedom (rubato) that cuts against the grain of studied performance practice; Demidenko feels that it is an essential ingredient of their music.

 

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