06 July, 2016

Concert Review: HKPO - Bezhod Abduraimov - Ashkenazy

Concert Review: HKPO - Bezhod Abduraimov - Ashkenazy

July 1, 2016, CCCH
HKPO - Bezhod Abduraimov - Vladimir Ashkenazy
Prokofiev - Elgar

I was really looking forward to the return of both soloist and conductor, and I was not disappointed.

Behzod Abduraimov played a most enticing Rachmaninov 3rd last year, but this year's Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto was even more heaven storming. From start to finish, basically he tore up the piano. I have never heard anyone bang louder in the middle registers. In comparison, the bass was less clear and the treble somewhat monochromatic and percussive, though this is par for the course for Prokofiev. In comparison, Wang Yuja in 2010 (here) and 2012 (here) got more nuance out of this concerto. The orchestra under the Russian born Ashkenazy naturally got the full measure of this concerto, playing with power, precision, even some wit and sardonic edge when called for. In all, a fine effort. Although the piano had deteriorated sound by then, the Gluck-Sgambatti Melodie made a perfect encore.

Askenazy is a relatively late comer to Elgar, but his understanding is formidable. He has recorded much of Elgar for Exton and other labels, to almost universal acclaim. As he has delivered outstanding performances of the composer's In the South and Cello Concerto in HK in 2014 (here),  I was really looking forward to his Elgar 1st Symphony, and I was not disappointed.

The only reservation I had was the mammoth first movement, which Ashkenazy did not manage to completely hold together. The tempo was somewhat slow and from the middle on sometimes the quieter passages seemed rather episodic, not helped by HKPO's somewhat mechanical sounding strings. However, from the second movement on, the symphony went from strength to strength, with a positively thrilling finale. Ashkenazy's taut conducting and perfect balance had one's attention riveted. The brass played valiantly, even more heroic than in Bruckner. The winds' comparative weakness showed, but mattered little in this symphony.

I stood up and yelled "bravo" twice; had not felt like that in quite a while!