Lazarev Conducts Cinderella

Usher Hall. Edinburgh
15 April 2016
Sound:5 Atmosphere:4.png  Performance:5
Just the regal, expansive beauty of the Usher Hall is enough to set the scene for a glorious night of classical music. The hall was fairly well packed, with people of all ages. Although the majority of the audience were seniors, I was glad to see quite a substantial number of children and young people enjoying the show. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has an admirable policy on making classical music concerts affordable and accessible by offering heavily reduced rates for young people and the unemployed, and free for children accompanying a paying adult.
Understandably, there were quite a few Russian accents to be heard amongst the audience members, for the composer Alexander Lazarev is one of Russia’s foremost conductors. He graduated with first-class honours from the Moscow Conservatoire and went on to direct and conduct at the Bolshoi Theatre, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra amongst so many others around the world. Of course, the whole night belonged to the Russians as well as the Scottish; apart from the both the composers, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev being Russian of course, and then the extraordinarily talented pianist Nikolai Lugansky was on hand to effortlessly conquer Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No4 (For the Left Hand) for the second piece. It was originally written for, but rejected by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his right hand in World War One. An unusual and complicated piece, it was mastered by Lugansky, who perhaps was drawn to playing it as he himself is left handed. The orchestra had played both Caprice bohemien by Rachmaninov to start, and after the interval, selected movements from Cinderella by Sergei Prokofiev for the whole of the second half.
Lazarev, like all good conductors, had an affectionate and enthusiastic relationship with the members of the orchestra, and his ebullient nature and intensity came across as he bolted on to the stage; wild haired and full of passion to launch the concert with a punchy beginning. Caprice bohemien is structured in three parts, the first being bouncy and lively, with its sea of strings sliding up into the high notes, with fragments of a gypsy dance introduced, and then moving into a slightly disturbing funeral march. The second part expands the previous flute melody and builds to a deep drama from the brass section, punctuated by heavy strings, recalling the gypsy wail. The final section thrilled the audience with its stirring dance melody and then sudden rousing close.
Out of all musical instruments, I have a special love for the piano, but I especially marvelled at Lugansky’s rendition of Piano Concerto No4. It was so confidently handled, he really embodied the word insouciance in his performance. It was an incredibly fast and complicated piece to be played with just one hand. Four movements lasted 25 minutes, but he had you enthralled throughout. Clear and unstoppable; the kind of playing that if you shut your eyes, had you seeing shapes rapidly changing size and colour; black, white and fuschia, in my case! Two moto perpetuo movements; an adante and a scherzo, frame the two middle movements. Lugansky, who has resided in Scotland for twenty years, met with huge applause from his appreciative Edinburgh audience.
The movements selected from the entire ballet of Cinderella lasted the 45 minutes of the second half, and the most dramatic ones were chosen. Generally laid out in chronological order so that you could easily follow along with the storyline of the ballet, it recoiled on itself to conclude with the most dramatic and well known scene of any of the tellings and retellings of the Cinderella story; the midnight hour. Because for most girls growing up in the West, it’s such a beloved scene from a story well entrenched in conscious and unconscious memory, it felt slightly disorienting to have the Midnight movement right at the end. It was thrilling in its drama however, and all the main points of the story had already been lovingly illustrated. Such vividly emotional scenes brought fully to life by music alone made for a night of pure magic.
Reviewer: Lisa Williams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s