LAST night’s concert under German conductor Jun Märkl opened with the high jinks of Richard Strauss’s Merry Pranks of Till Eulenspiegel.
It was the Tom and Jerry version, with Till’s mischievous antics super sensitised into an electrifying HD version of events, hair-raisingly detailed, hard-edged, and engineered to keep you on the edge of your seat.
As such, it fed naturally into Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 4 (for left hand only), an altogether darker, moodier performance by pianist Denis Kozhukin filled with bracing energy in the relentless opening movement, achingly restrained in the second, injected with black sardonic humour in the third, and literally tossed aside in the snappy 90-second finale.
This was the latest in this season’s magnetic survey by Kozhukin of the Prokofiev concertos. It was as dazzling as his previous appearances, but did he really need to release the gnawing tension with an encore of Gluck’s delicate Dance of the Blessed Spirits? Beautiful though it was, probably not.
Märkl’s second half performance – a potent Germanic coupling of the Prelude to Act 1 of Strauss’s early opera Guntram and Schumann’s noble Rhenish Symphony – proved as seismic in parts, but not quite as consistent.
It took time for the Strauss to gather vital momentum, and while the Schumann had speed and energy on its side, it was untidy in places. When the true spark of mischief returned in the finale, it was with an anarchic twist. As if Till had returned to his old tricks.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West