Valcuha and Bozhanov in Rome

Valcuha and Bozhanov in Rome
Juraj Valcuha and Evgeni Bozhanov Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Beethoven Canto Elegiaco e Concerto n.3 Bartok Concerto per orchestra
Interesting concert at St Cecilia a prelude,one might say, to next week with two hardly known musicians.
Juraj Valcuha principal director of the Orchestra and Chorus at San Carlo in Naples and Evgeni Bozhanov much discussed young bulgarian pianist.
Both obviously two rising stars .
Next week’s concert on the other hand will be  with two super stars :Yuja Wang and Sir Anthony Pappano in Tchaikowsky First piano concerto.
A concert that will be repeated at the Royal Festival Hall in London on the 11th May. Even if Yuja Wang cannot be heard who cares when Pappano is at the helm .
Having just recorded so magnificently this concerto and Prokofiev 2 with another rising star Beatrice Rana .
A recording that quite rightly has has won every major international prize. https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/…/…
Very interesting progamme with the rarely if ever heard Canto Elegiaco op 118 by Beethoven for chorus and orchestra .
Very big forces for this hardly whispered ten minute work. Here the conductor immediately established his credentials as a very sensitive intelligent musician .
Beautiful to see how he molded the phrases with his bare hands and how the orchestra and chorus were so ready  and willing to respond .
I was interested to hear the pianist Evgeni Bozhanov who has been the subject of some discussion since his appearance at the Van Cliburn and Chopin Competitions .
In fact something of the same cause celebre at the Chopin Competition that launched Pogorelich’s career, years earlier, so spectacularly when Martha Argerich resigned in protest.
In this competition in 2010 he was awarded 4th prize amongst much discussion having taken 2nd at Van Cliburn a few months earlier .
Outright winner though of the Casagrande competition in 2008.He is  obviouslya pianist with the same background as a Pogorelich or Trpcescki .
Master pianists but rather controversial musicians .
Infact it was clear from the encore that was offered that this was a pianist of the old school of the so called Golden Era of piano playing Lhevine,Rosenthal,Friedman,Hoffman etc.
In our day it could be liken to some of the things that Magaloff or Fiorentino were sometimes capable of charming us with .( Strangely enough Buchbinder the other day astounded his audience  too after four Beethoven Sonatas with the most ravishing performance of a Strauss transcription as in the good old days)
The four/two waltz op 42 by Chopin was rattled of with all the jeux perle of the old school together with some extremely beautiful moments of delicious cantable almost song like in its super sensibility.
Some added bass notes of course that opened up the possible sounds in the top register of the piano as in the good old days in the great old opera houses .
Since those times of course we have had the reaction of Rubinstein and Schnabel. Rubinstein the great showman but also the great musician who was able to give nobility and intelligence back to a school of piano playing that could titivate and excite the senses much as the great singing divas of the day.
Sometimes at the expense of what the composer had actually asked for though .
Schnabel of course just stated that usually the first part of pianists programmes are the most boring whereas the difference with his was that the second half was boring too!
And so it was interesting to listen to this suprising choice of Beethoven third piano concerto.
It is a concerto that requires a very solid sense of touch where every note should sing as if an orchestra in its own right .
Many of the piano melodies are taken up in fact by the orchestra and vice versa in an interplay that makes these concertos of Beethoven such masterpieces.
Of course a concerto for piano and orchestra not orchestra with piano (as in the cello or violin sonatas).
It is just this interplay that is so important and gives a forward architectural propulsion to the music.
On the whole Evgeni Bozhanov molded in well with the sensitive conducting of Juraj Valcuha but there were occasions in the first movement in particular when his almost throwing away of the semiquavers- jeux perle- allowed the rhythmic energy to sag instead of propelling the music forward with the energy so typical of Beethoven in this period.
The cadenza in particular suffered from this lack of orchestration where the great cascades of notes were rather thrown off instead of leading into what followed.
The frenzied stamping dance rhythym was again played rather frivolously and the speed of the entry of the theme in octaves was enviably ridiculous.
Not always infallible though as there were some remarkable scrappy passage playing no doubt due to the pressure of a debut in Rome with such a prestigious orchestra.
Some very beautiful things in the slow movement and the last movement played with all the joie de vivre that Beethoven has written in the score.
All in all I must say it was a rather boring performance where the continual forward impulse of the music was interrupted too many times by some remarkably beautiful legato playing and conducting but it needed a tighter reign to allow us all to be swept up in the great architectural shape of this great work .
The Concerto for Orchestra by Bartok in which even the orchestra at the end joined in the applause for this very musical conductor.
Now with a baton in his hand to direct this very complicated work.
I felt though that it somehow missed the forward sweep in the conductors effort to shape every small section loosing the driving force of the work as a whole .
A not very full hall this time due to the continual holidays in this period but I am sure that Pappano on his home ground will find his usual justly admiring public waiting for him next week .
I of course will be in the front row in Rome and in London.

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