Adelaide Town Hall. 30 March 2012
His name is Behzod Abduraimov, he is 21 years old, he is from Uzbekistan, he plays the piano, and he is electric. Indeed, the first of the ASO’s 2012 Master Series belonged to him, and at the end of his performance of Tchaikovsky’s iconic Piano Concerto No.1 the audience brought him back no fewer than four times to acknowledge their thunderous standing ovations.
But what made this performance special? After all, the concerto is an old war horse and is trotted out on so many occasions. For me, guest maestro Joseph Swensen had a lot to do with it. He held the tempo in check and never allowed the outer allegro movements to border on vivace, which so often happens. The controlled tempo allowed Abduraimov to clearly articulate every note and execute great sensitivity with the dynamics.
The evening began with Nielsen’s Helios Overture which pays homage to the sun as it rises and falls over the Aegean Sea. It is a wonderfully descriptive piece – almost programmatic – in which silences are as important as musical phrases, and languid tempos become more agitated but eventually return to calm and stillness.
The concert concluded with Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 3, the mighty ‘Eroica’, and it was one of the longest readings I have ever heard. There is often academic debate about the tempo at which various symphonies should be played. Norrington has recorded the Beethoven cycle at almost break-neck speeds, and Klemperer at rather more sedate tempi. In this performance Swensen has shown us that he is more aligned to the Klemperer school, but it was almost turgid. Notwithstanding Abduraimov’s four sets of bows, and an encore, the concert didn’t come out until 10:30pm, which left some audience members sprinting for the last train home.
Apart from Abduraimov, the highlight of the evening was the exceptionally fine brass and woodwind playing. Bravo to Celia Craig, Sarah Barrett, Dean Newcomb, Geoffrey Collins, Cameron Malouf and their section members, especially to those who made running repairs on their instruments!
The next Master Series concert on 27th April sees the return of Chief Conductor Arvo Volmer to conduct a spirited Russian and Hungarian program – not one to miss.
Where: Adelaide Town Hall