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The Currentzis Dances II & Ravel’s Wonderful Rubbish

Teodor Currentzis’ look is half Emo, half Marilyn Manson. It’s rather dreadful, but I suppose anything to differentiate oneself from the crowd will do and serves a purpose. And if rebel one must, it is surely better to rebel with black carrot pants and a white dinner jacket and greasy side-shaved hair than, say, youthful swastikas. From a PR point of view, at least. (Also with the difference that one of them grew out of the phase and the other one clings to it with tenacity. In any case: for conducting Weinberg's Passenger as well as he did, he should get away wearing pink hot-pants, for all I care.)

Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra was an ambitious curtain raiser for the concert, and it spoiled the ears with superb clarinet and oboe contributions in the brawny first movement. Undeterred by the jumping jacks of Currentzis’—who is decidedly of the interpretative dance school of conducting—the orchestra finished the piece in fine, if not exciting ways, and muscular colorful sound.

That Rubbish Bolero

The popularity of the Bolero exposes the need for simplistic structures, for the primitive in music, for the decidedly unsophisticated element that needs nourishment, too. We’re lucky it’s considered classical music, or else we couldn’t feel cozy and sophisticated, listening to this rubbish. That’s not a bad thing, “rubbish”. Surely the Bolero is great rubbish, perhaps like Midsomer Murders is total rubbish TV… but “good rubbish”. But don’t ever, ever tut-tut or pshaw! Pop songs or techno or down-tempo songs (not that the type to do so would be able to distinguish), while professing a love for Ravel’s confessedly music-devoid Bolero. Like it, by all means. We all do. But then don’t thumb your nose at the popularity of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers, for good measure), which is exactly the same piece of music, except that Daft Punk have the decency to stop the joke after 4 minutes. Get your simplistic groove on to that, too. On an almost tangential note: it wasn’t even performed all that well… just good enough and loud enough in the end to elicit the instinctive applause.

available at Amazon
DSCH, Piano Concertos,
A.Melnikov / T.Currentzis / Mahler CO
Harmonia Mundi

The Melnikov Treat

What if the concert had ended just before the Bolero? It would have been a whole different ball-game, ending on a high that combined the well oiled, unfussy musicality of Alexander Melnikov with the best of high-octane Currentzis in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto. Melnikov is a player free of effect and show, and enough reason to attend a concert or recital for anyone in the know. The Prokofiev was the confirmation of this optimistic prejudice in three movements—from jaunty to lyrical and back, playful, adept, and—or so I imagined—with a self-deprecating twinkle in his eye. More of Melnikov, please.

For a Melnikov discography click here.