Russian peasant militia inspired the opening and chunky brass themes for Prokofiev’s War and Peace Overture.
This monumental four hour opera, took 12 years to create, the overture being a challenging introduction for Israel’s Lahav Shani, 25, winner of the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition (2013).
All in the mind– no music (‘the paper gets in the way’) and a clear beat resulted in lively interpretations.
Pianist Francesco Piemontesi gave a gutsy, in-your-face, technically brilliant performance.
A reduced orchestra still overpowered the soloist, but piano cadenzas were scarily astonishing.
One questioned the ‘no score’ approach from the rostrum though. There can be occasions when a soloist may need subtle support; actual printed notes being a life-saver, plus crucial eye-contact throughout of course.
Amazingly Prokofiev died in 1953 – a modern man, but forever recognisable by his totally unique creativity.
Symphony No 5 is hauntingly poignant with wonderful tunes on full strings, lovely woodwind – particularly clarinet – plus characteristic parallel octave spaces between solo instruments, contrasting with brilliance and grotesque roaring through the texture to terrifying heights.
More heart possible with finer creative balance but otherwise very acceptable efforts throughout.