rimsky business

I have a confession: I find the first movement of Scheherazade quite the most tedious piece of music. Is it just me? Once the nice violin solo is out the way, it’s wave upon wave of unremitting string crossing and the same tune, which is only half a tune, isn’t it, when you think about it?

I think conductors like it, mind. Bar after bar of sweeping music to get stuck into, summoning one surge after another and few banana skins on the way. It suits Mihhail Gerts to the ground, and he spent part of his morning session playing through the movement without stopping. The last movement of the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements, although very different in character suits him too.

He conducts it with firm gestures and he comes across as extremely decisive. This helps him untangle things at one moment where markings in the players’ parts and uncertainty over his beating patterns have helped cause some confusion. This kind of thing can quickly descend into minor chaos as people talk over each other, asking questions at the same time.

For her part, Elim Chan also has a couple of questions from the orchestra to answer, a couple of points to note. She chooses to work first on her movements of Scheherazade – there are many more banana skins to negotiate for her since there is much more stopping and starting in her sections of the piece. When it does get going, however, she catches the driving, dancing nature of the music well. She looks in charge throughout. Perhaps, given her handling of the Beethoven symphony on day 1 I was expecting a more forceful Egmont, but we’ll see how things turn out tonight – she’s first on in the concert.

Like Rozen, she chose not to look at Stravinsky in the morning session, meaning that Gerts is the only one of the three to have played through everything on his list (he left himself a few minutes to look at the Beethoven at the end of his time slot). Let’s see if he can add a bit more nuance to those never-ending waves of sound conjured up by Scheherazade.

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