RAVEL & RACHMANINOV FINALE Bridgewater Hall
’s most loved
piano virtuosi were onstage for the finale of the ‘Ravel and Rachmaninov’
festival on Friday night. Manchester
Noriko Ogawa (the festival creator), Martin Roscoe, Kathryn Stott and Peter Donohoe each played solo in a programme made of four great piano concerto (or concerto-style) works, with the BBC Philharmonic under conductor Andrew Gourlay. For lovers of the piano at its most brilliant, it was sheer heaven.
Ravel’s two concertos came first: the witty, jazzy, bright and breezy Concerto in G major, played by Noriko Ogawa, and the Concerto For The Left Hand by Martin Roscoe. As pieces written more or less simultaneously, they are hugely contrasted – the former requiring formidable skill and brilliance, to which Ogawa brought a willingness to melt her music into its surroundings and (in the slow movement) captivating delicacy and purity – and the latter extraordinary power and stamina. Martin Roscoe’s achievement, as a normally two-handed pianist of immense experience, was remarkable, and a musical one as much as technical.
Rachmaninov was represented by his fourth piano concerto, with Kathryn Stott the eloquent protagonist, and his Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini. Both were pretty near ideal interpreters, as she brought infinitely varied expression to the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t style of writing, when poetry keeps making its seductive presence felt, as well as meeting all its extraordinary technical demands, while his playing was as fluent and beautifully shaped in its phrasing as any performance I’ve heard of a very popular work.
Andrew Gourlay’s direction helped create some magical moments in the orchestral part of the score, too – imaginative colouring in the mix of portent and gossamer of variation 7, breathless beauty in variations 11 and 12, and sumptuous richness in the famous variation 18, ultimately all the better for its initial restraint.
I shouldn’t let the occasion pass without a reference to the previous day’s recital (the finale to the Manchester Mid-day Concerts series), when Peter Donohoe and Noriko Ogawa played the music of R&R in two-piano duet. Each a wonderful soloist, together they are astounding, their telepathic unanimity night unbelievable.
There were two delightful encores, the second a version of Ravel’s Conversations Of Beauty And The Beast (from his Mother Goose Suite). Peter Donohoe, introducing it, dryly claimed his role to be that of Beauty (in reality they shared the Beast-y bits) – whatever, it was one of those Manchester moments you never forget.