Ke Ma at St Johns

Ke Ma with the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Blair at St John`s Smith Square.
Wonderful to see an orchestra made of such youthful young musicians. All playing their hearts out which I am sure the fine conductor has spent many hours working them into a united ensemble. Now they need to listen to each other and find their way and a true sense of balance that would allow the line to sing out without such a battle as there was in the Wagner Meistersinger Overture that opened the programme.
It was even more evident the real lack of line and direction. Dohnanyi too asks for a very large orchestra for his Variations on a Nursery Song in which Ke Ma was the splendid soloist. Rather overblown in this day and age and all compliments to the YMSO for proposing it tonight. Unfortunately it appears ,in this day and age ,as rather like a poor man’s Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini.
Here the lack of balance and proportion was even more evident and it was often a struggle to be able savour the really extraordinary pianistic and musical qualities of the solist. Not sure what Dohnanyi himself would have made of the battle waged tonight.
However the soloist was persuaded to play an encore after a successful if rather overblown account of the Dohnyani. And what a spectacular performance she gave.The flight of the bumble bee that puts Rachmaninov’s famous arrangement to shame. Christopher Elton,that very distinguished professor from the Royal Academy ,where Ke Ma received her final training,suggested it might be by Volodos.Indeed he would be one of the very few who could tackle the treacherous demands of this bumble bee . I thought it could be Kapustin . But no ,Ke Ma told us that it was given to her by her professor in China and it is by Alinsky.(?) I wonder if he could play it as superlatively as Ke Ma did tonight. At last we were allowed to savour the real qualities of this exceptional young pianist. She even learnt the Dohnyani especially for tonight’s performance and doubt very much if she will have occasion to play it again ,at least I sincerely hope not. There is always the superlative recording of Cyril Smith or Julius Katchen if one really needed to listen to this rather outdated piece.
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