Prokofiev second piano concerto with Tamila Salimdjanova and the Ealing Symphony Orchestra under John Gibbons
There must be something about the air in Ealing that not a day passes without the most stimulating musical surprises.
Yesterday the extraordinary recital by Vitaly Pisarenko and today Prokofiev Second Piano Concerto ,probably the hardest concerto in the piano repertoire ,with Tamila Salimdjanova and the Ealing Symphony as winner of their annual concerto competition.
I do not think it a coincidence that they are both students in the class of Dmitri Alexeev winner of the Leeds Piano Competition and star student of Dmitri Bashkirov who at 85 has just spent a week giving seminars at the RCM extolling the bravura of his ex student now one of their top professors.
Surprise,surprise Alexeev is long time resident in Ealing along with that other superb pianist and winner of the Leeds competition Murray Perahia.
One was immediatley struck but the magnificent sound from this old but noble Boesendorfer. In the supremely confident hands of Salimdjanova she swept the orchestra along with her in a performance that had a great sense of direction and rhythmic impulse.
The first movement cadenza built from a murmur to a tumultuous climax where the orchestral brass came magnificently into their own.
The moto perpetuo of the second movement played without a hitch which says much not only for the transcendental playing of Tamila but also the total command of this good but amateur orchestra under their fine conductor John Gibbons.
The conductor who managed to coordinate the ensemble in this very complex work of Prokofiev that at the first performance in 1913 had scandalised its audience who left in drones.
Instead tonight in Ealing there was a real ovation from this large packed out church of St Barnabas and appreciation of the mastery of this waif like young pianist.
Some beautifully sensitive things from Tamila.
In fact the opening of the first movement had been quite magical.
The seemingly effortless power that she could then produce without any hardness always listening and fitting in with the ensemble could be quite overpowering.
No encore possible after a performance like that as the insistent audience understood too.
What a tour de force it had been.
Very interesting choice of programme too.
Opening with the difficult Pines of Rome by that master orhestrator Respighi .
The second half saw a performance of the Second Symphony op.116 by John Gardner.
I well remember him at the RAM with his rugged good looks that were much admired by the ladies.
He was also good friend and admirer of my first teacher Sidney Harrison.
In fact it was John who read the eulogy at his funeral arranging during the ceremony a recording of the deceased Sidney’s performance of Funerailles by Liszt.
He had that sense of humour.
The Symphony written too around this time in 84/85.
For many years I played his amusing arrangement of the March Militaire that he had written for Sidney Harrison’s 80th Birthday concert to be played together by an ex student Ian Hobson,also winner of the Leeds.
I got to play it to my other teacher Guido Agosti in Siena who was very amused and impressed.
I had no idea that John Gardner had been such a prolific composer and I think that here in Ealing it is the first time I have seen his name on a concert programme.
Nice to read that his performance of the drunken bar pianist in Wozzeck in 1951 became the stuff of legend!
To read also of his work with Karl Rankl for the newly formed Covent Garden Company and early performances of his first Symphony under Barbirolli.
His last work a bassoon Concerto op.249 completed in 2004 and that he died at the ripe old age of 94 in 2011.
Hats off to the orchestra for such interesting programmes and wonderful to know that they will be playing in one of Italy’s most magical cities- Lucca- in July.