Cinderella, Gergiev and the LSO, BBC Prom 52, Royal Albert Hall, 22 August 2012

Combining Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra to play ballet music is a winner. At the Proms in 2008 they gave an electrifying performance of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, and this year they produced a superb rendering of Prokofiev’s Cinderella.

Cinderella tends to be less well-known than Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and partly for that reason less favoured on radio broadcasts, but it is a fascinating score, and the LSO gave it their best. In the first act when the fairy godmother appears in her new guise, Gergiev produced a lovely musical sweep into the world of magic where she conjures up visions of the year with its four seasons. And then as Cinderella finally sets off for the ball he rounded the music off to perfection. After a short pause we moved into Act II where they placed brass up in the top gallery for the entrance of the prince and his companions, and as their sound filled the hall and was answered by the orchestra on stage the result was quite unlike anything you will hear in the theatre — it was wonderfully effective! Towards the end of that act the music swelled out strongly for the Prince and Cinderella, before dying away and moving into the waltz-coda, and then the ominous ticking of the clock as midnight approaches.

After the interval came Act III where the Prince searches for Cinderella, and as he finds her the music developed gloriously. After the slow waltz came a ravishing amoroso, ending with a beautiful diminuendo. What a change this was from the Proms in 2011 when Gergiev conducted Swan Lake with the Maryinsky theatre orchestra, who produced the usual boilerplate rendering they had been serving up in the theatre. As I wrote at the time, I longed to hear Gergiev back again with the LSO at the Proms in 2012, and this was it, a world-class conductor with a world-class orchestra — it was a huge pleasure.

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