Firebird, in concert at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, August 2010

This concert by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev, had a substantial hors d’oeuvre in Scriabin’s Symphony No. 1. That six-movement work, which ends with massive choral forces, was beautifully performed. The soloists, mezzo Nadezhda Serdiuk and tenor Sergei Skorokhodov, both members of the Mariinsky Theatre, sang strongly, and the LSO chorus gave immense power to the finale.

Stravinsky’s Firebird followed after the interval. It’s a work I have seen danced many times on stage, but here it had an unusually dreamy quality in the earlier part, quite different from the overtly dramatic effect one normally gets with ballet performances. It’s interesting to compare it to Vladimir Jurowski’s excellent Firebird with the London Philharmonic at the Proms two years ago, which was more in the style of a stage performance. After the dreamily dreary first half, Gergiev built momentum and there was a wonderfully swinging quality to the later part when the prince gets hold of Kashchey’s heart in the egg, before breaking it and releasing the princess from Kashchey’s magic. Gergiev also produced a very remarkable dynamic range from the orchestra at the end, becoming scarcely audible before building to a huge climax, helped by the dramatic appearance of three extra trumpets on stage left. This was a superb ending that elicited immense applause.

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