Tonight’s concert sandwiched Scriabin’s Piano Concerto between two giant fifth symphonies – Sibelius and Shostakovich. I’m afraid the Scriabin was severely overshadowed by such exalted company. It’s very pleasant, but goes nowhere. One aches for a Rachmaninov-style climax that actually resolves itself, but it never comes. I’m rather of the opinion that Bruckner has the same tendency, but at least the material has substance: Scriabin is all fluff and nonsense. Sorry, but there it is.
It was a low quantity/high quality evening for me. I didn’t play in either Sibelius or Scriabin, being there as a percussionist rather than a timpanist, and for a composer who writes so imaginatively for percussion, Shostakovich 5 uses us sparingly, but always tellingly. I know many people who just don’t get Dmitri. I’ll allow that there are passages of meandering tedium from time to time, but speaking in an age where minimalism has had such a huge influence, I wouldn’t complain much about that.
The first movement does take a long time to show us which direction it’s travelling in, but the second drops us straight into a grotesque waltz which owes a lot to the composer’s background in theatre music: it’s structurally concise, with appealing melodies and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The slow movement mustn’t be allowed to stagnate (thankfully, this evening it didn’t). The finale is like experiencing a hurricane passing overhead – all that power with a peaceful eye in the middle. I covered the bass drum at the end – those final eight notes are up there with the Verdi Requiem in the Bass Drum Players’ Hall of Fame!
P.S. At least the concert kept me well away from the 20/20 cricket international. Dear me! I wonder when a team will have the courage to pick eleven recognised batsmen, realising that the bowlers are just cannon fodder. Of course, it will never happen, because it would show 20/20 up for what it is, or rather what it isn’t: cricket.