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Gidon ludens

Royal Albert Hall
07/24/2001 -  
Alfred Schnittke: Moz-Art à la Haydn,
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky/Alexander RaskatovThe Seasons' Digest
Franz Liszt/Sergei Dreznin Fantasia quasi Concerto "After Reading Dante", Franz Schubert String Quintet in C major, D956 (arranged for string orchestra)

Eva Bindere (violin), Gidon Kremer (violin/director)
Kremerata Baltica Chamber Orchestra

Two years ago, Gidon Kremer's band played Piazzolla's Four seasons interspersed with Vivaldi's, a simple but fertile mirroring of ancient and modern. Tuesday's concert was purely post-modern, if that makes sense. There was yet another set of seasons, Tchiakovsky's monthly part-book piano studies, in a jolly, often raucous and very Russian rearrangement for strings by Alexander Rastatov. The concert opened with one of Kremerata Baltica's signature works, Schnittke's Moz-Art à la Haydn, a Haydnesque exploration of the minutest fragment of melody from a lost pantomine work by Mozart, performed with theatrical bravura from the opening improvisatory manoeuvres in the dark. The first part ended with a rather deracinated arrangement of Liszt's "Dante" sonata as a kind of violin concert by the pianist Sergei Dreznin. Somehow the diabolical ego of Liszt's hell didn't survive the exquisite but self-effacing performance of Kremer's string players, although Kremer himself in the quasi concerto soloist's role prowled about sinisterly enough.

The second part of the concert consisted of an uncredited arranged for string orchestra of Schubert's great string quintet, inevitably a first at the Proms proper (since the Albert Hall is not an ideal venue for string quintets). Although there were moments depths, this was generally well on the way to being wussy. The arrangement distinguished to some extent between ensemble parts and single-voice lines, but this didn't seem to add much, although the overall performance was elegant. The second encore, another of Kremerata Baltica's signature pieces, by Luigi Nono, was seemed to return us to normal weirdness at the end.

There was another, rather different rework of a classic in Wednesday's Prom. Sandwiched between Mahler arranged by Britten (the second movement of Symphony 3) and old original Mahler (Symphony 5), Emmanuel Ax and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin played the European premiere of Christopher Rouse's 1998 Seeing. This is an impersonal vision of madness that takes as its starting points Schumann's piano concerto, his apparent psychosis at the end of his life, and the similar illness of Moby Grape's guitarist Skip Spence, who wrote the song from which the work's title is lifted. The format of the work is an inversion of the standard concert movements, fast-slow-fast-slow, but the pacing is often determined locally by dramatic outburst and implosions. The piano solo is a part of the overall deranged world, sometimes a thread of apparent coherence running though the orchestral mayhem, but often another element in the world out of joint. Given the pain of psychosis, there was perhaps too much comfort in the way Schumann's romantic lines reasserted themselves at key points.

H.E. Elsom



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