UNDERSTUDYING AT ITS BEST
Although this is the kind of information that does not concern the broader public, it might be interesting to learn when Andrei Korobeinikov was asked to perform and when he accepted the sudden invitation, because Piano Concerto No. 3 by Prokofiev is not a walk in the park for an average, internationally acclaimed piano soloist, to be played easily whenever he is roused from his sleep, even at 3am.
28 January 2014 Béla Bartók National Concert Hall
Polovtsian Dances by Borodin
Piano Concerto No. 3 (in C major) by Prokofiev
Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”) by Tchaikovsky
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Czech Philharmonic Choir (choirmaster: Petr Fiala)
Andrei Korobeinikov – piano
Conductor: Iván Fischer
That said, the young Russian pianist is far from average. According to the concert brochure, he has won about twenty competitions(!), both national – i.e. Russian, which is therefore quite an achievement – and international, over the 27 years of his life, and he graduated from the Tchaikovsky State Conservatoire with honours “as the greatest musician of the decade” at the age of 19; already an impressive CV. His performance at the concert bore evidence of his past achievements, he played this technically very difficult piece of music with enormous confidence, his way of touching the keys revealed the whole gamut of timbres, the only reason I do not laud him to the heavens for his musicality is because he only displayed his real talent during the Beethoven Bagatelle played as an encore. It should be noted that he had an unerring instinct for choosing this composition, because even if the two composers are so different, their pieces still resemble each other in character, the concerto and the bagatelle were related and unrelated to each other at the same time.
Two relatively popular compositions provided a framework for the piano concerto, which is less known in Hungary. Polovtsian Dances, the opening piece of the concert, was performed in collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic Choir. I can only assume that the reason for choosing the orchestra was the Slavic mother language, because although their women’s choir sang truly beautifully without too much vibration, producing a uniform and rich sound, the male sections sounded quite thin, a fact their enthusiasm was unable to compensate for either, so basically any of the Hungarian professional choirs could have been better than this.
Interestingly, the otherwise excellent orchestra made some minor mistakes when performing the Tchaikovsky Symphony (chords were not always played simultaneously, and the strings sections had occasional intonation problems), but only a music director would have complained about it while recording, so the audience easily got over it. Unfortunately, the rendering of the symphony was more disturbing. Iván Fischer paid too much attention to subtle details, which were presented in a beautiful way, so much so that listeners eventually could not see the wood for the trees. It seemed as if this had an effect on intellect rather than emotions, which is a bit unfortunate for a composition described as “pathétique”. Due to the composition’s structure, this became more marked movement by movement. In the first movement, there were some really nice string chords between shifts and musical forms, but the second, which is a quasi-waltz in 5/4 time, lacked French elegance, the third began too slowly and fell apart, reaching no climax whatsoever, and finally, the fourth movement could not contrast sharply enough with all this – though the depressive sadness of the final movement could only have come to the fore in this part.
It was not a bad performance at all, but the concert will definitely be remembered for the great pianist understudy.