Sunday, 30 October 2011

Michail Jurowski and the Tonkünstler

Musikverein, 23/10/2011

Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, Michail Jurowski, Boris Berezovsky

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto no. 3 in D minor, op. 30
Chaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture
Prokofiev: Orchestral Suite from Romeo and Juliet

A few months ago I swore never to see Jurowski Sr. again, after hearing him bulldoze his way through some music that never did him any harm. I didn’t count on the Tonkünstler holding out one of my favourite Russian pianists as bait, because there I was at the Musikverein last Sunday nursing this fantasy of listening to Boris Berezovsky and blocking out the rest. The obviously foreseeable put paid to that idea even sooner than expected. Whatever Berezovsky was trying to set up with his opening theme – not too pointed and curiously inscrutable for a tonic-dominant pivot – was ruined by an extravagant cello entry. The rest of the strings followed suit with wide vibrato and self-indulgent phrasing, their massed sound making more impact than Berezovsky’s crashing chords, even after he resorted to banging (which isn’t like him at all). The unusual development sections of the second and third movements were incoherent on the orchestral side, with Jurowski typically oblivious to Berezovsky’s more searching efforts. The cadenzas provided the only unobstructed glimpses of thoughtful pianism, and were brought off with effortless facility and supple touch as long, flowing paragraphs.

The Chaikovsky wasn’t quite as crass as I’d feared, but only because of technical mishaps. The cor anglais sounded like a duck with laryngitis and strings were far from smooth throughout the love theme section. Climaxes were deafening, with a migraine-inducing timpani roll at the end. The Prokofiev was played more capably, but excessive volume remained a problem and any one of the published versions would have been better than Jurowski’s mismatched selections. Montagues and Capulets was competently belligerent, so no different to how it’s routinely played and the best that could be hoped for under the circumstances. Tempi elsewhere were driven and tone washed-out. How awful Jurowski’s Shostakovich must sound hardly bears thinking about.

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