The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra was under the baton of conductor Alan Buribayev on Friday night for a dramatic programme of Russian and Armenian works. Joining the orchestra onstage tonight are some of the participants of the 2013 RTE NSO Mentoring Scheme for Advanced Young Musicians – the scheme giving some of the best young performers in the country the opportunity to play with our National Symphony Orchestra. Completing the line-up for tonight’s show will be Portuguese pianist Artur Pizarro, here to perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. in G.
First up is a short work by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, with the overture to his opera The Tsar’s Bride – lively from the start, strong playing from the brass brings Rimsky-Korsakov’s writing to life. In what seems to be an unfortunate programming arrangement, after this start we’re left to watch the stage hands rearrange the stage to accommodate Pizarro’s piano. After such a short opening work – only seven minutes – it is nearly fifteen minutes before the concert resumes.
When it does though, there can be no complaints. Pizarro is an assured pianist, Tchaikovsky’s music engaging and Buribayev draws a fine, balanced sound from the orchestra. Opening with the flute, before the piano enters, the first movement is monumental in both length and feeling. As the work unfolds, Buribayev becoming ever more energetic, Pizarro seems to become more engaged. Tchaikovsky’s work is at times lyrical, almost gentle and Pizarro reflects this, but he has a weighty enough style to bring out the real tension in the music.
The second, shorter movement makes full use of the violin of Helena Wood and cello of Martin Johnson. As each solo unfolds, the interplay between strings, piano and orchestra is finely handled; each featured in turn, the three soloists bring their own style to the piece, with Buribayev in control throughout. The third and final movement, shorter still than the first two, rhythmic and lively, brings back some of the themes of the first, drawing the whole to a close.
After the interval Buribayev introduces the ‘surprise extra’ the programme promised us. But, as this year has been a celebration of the works of Benjamin Britten, it’s perhaps not much of a surprise that it should be one of his works – the final movement of the Soirees Musicales, the Tarantella, an orchestration on a theme by Rossini.
A selection of music from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Gayaneh makes up the rest of the programme. The Sabre Dance, one of the most famous of ballet concert selections, gets things under way, to smiles around the hall – both on stage and off. Ayesha’s Dance, its sounds exotic and lively, sees the energy maintained. Gopak is if anything even more frenetic as the tempo gradually builds, the dance rhythms clear. Nune’s Variations and The Rose-Maidens are moments of relative calm before the Mountaineers – its big horn and brass opening figures sound huge.
Lullaby, with the harp and flute taking the lead before the strings take up the melody is a beautiful tune, the playing throughout lyrical. Fire is cinematic in its scope, music on an epic scale. Gayaneh’s Adagio opens in the celli, as Buribayev turns to them and draws an elegiac and beautiful tone from the strings throughout. Closing with more high drama, Lezghinka is strongly percussive, grand in scale and energetic – in the final moments, the players give a single loud shout, a fiery end to some fiery music.
Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tsar’s Bride Overture
Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 2 in G
Khachaturian – Gayaneh Ballet (Selection)
Artur Pizarro – Piano
Helena Wood – Violin
Martin Johnson – Cello