Swan Lake, in concert, Prom 42, Royal Albert Hall, August 2011Posted on 16 August 2011
With Valery Gergiev conducting, this was a sell-out. I remember his magnificent Sleeping Beauty at the Proms three years ago, and was looking forward immensely to Swan Lake, but in the end I was disappointed.
It was a promising idea. The orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre have been in London to play for the Mariinsky Ballet at the Royal Opera House, so why not get a Proms concert out of them, with Gergiev, the music director of the Mariinsky, conducting. And yes, there were good moments. A powerful start to the prologue, continuing into Act I, and a lovely harp solo in Act II, joined by a solo violin that reappeared later in Act III and was superbly played by the leader of the orchestra. The basses rocked to the beat at slower moments during the cygnets dance in Act II, swaying the stems of their instruments from side to side — they were obviously having fun — and the percussionist with the castanets in Act III was right on the beat. It must be super for these soloists to play in the great open space of the Albert Hall, rather than hidden away in the orchestra pit, and they rose to the occasion. As for the full orchestra, Act III started with a woompf, and Act IV began with symphonic passion, lovely strings and woodwind. Gergiev has a dramatic technique for starts and conclusions, but the brass hit plenty of wrong notes in the middle, and overall this failed to ignite.
The Mariinsky orchestra played four Bayaderes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and this concert was on Monday. Gergiev had little time to get them in shape. It was only one week ago that they performed Swan Lake at Covent Garden, and although this may well have been a cut above, it wasn’t a patch on Gergiev’s Sleeping Beauty with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2008. Please can we have Gergiev and the LSO next year? A theatre orchestra cannot rise above their usual level without adequate rehearsal time, and we should not expect it.