Feb 17, 2023
London, UNITED KINGDOM - Barbican
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
w/ BBC Symphony Orchestra
Hannu Lintu, conductor
November 19th, 2022
His playing was a focused wave of energy that shot a bolt of lightning through Grieg’s music.
Any time I’ve heard Kozhukhin before, it has been the dynamism and energy of his playing that impressed me most, so I was expecting a reading of the concerto that would shake the foundations and reinforce the piece’s muscularity. Not a bit of it! The keynote of Kozhukhin’s playing was its fluidity and lyricism, something apparent right from the opening tumble which sounded restrained and understated, leading into a first theme that was smooth and beguiling, not craggy or intimidating. In this he chimed perfectly with the orchestral sound coming from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conductor Jonathon Heyward, sound that was as beautiful as it was amenable, phrased as though to illuminate Grieg’s music delicately, never forcefully or garishly.
Muscular power did enter Kozhukhin’s playing, but not until the first movement’s cadenza, and even then it was slow in coming. Not until the big double octaves did it finally feel as though the lion’s cage had been unbolted, and this gave a foretaste of the thunderous power with which he would finish the finale, a movement that Heyward wound up tightly but then released in its gloriously expansive slower sections. In between these two outcrops came a slow movement blessed with rosy, soft-hued strings, a glowing solo horn and a blend with the piano that had been beautifully achieved. If only all late stand-ins were as successful!