Beethoven & Prokofiev (Western Australian Symphony Orchestra)

Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov never fails to impress, and it was great to hear him again in the excellent acoustics of the Perth Concert Hall for this dramatic and refined reading of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Behzod Abduraimov performs with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in his Beethoven & Prokofiev concert, 2022. Photo © Linda Dunjey

That’s not to say that guest conductor Otto Tausk’s leading Western Australian Symphony Orchestra through Mozart’s overture to The Abduction of the Seraglio and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 was not so thrilling. Indeed, this classic overture-concerto-symphony program was remarkable for the same thrilling sense of unity and contrast that characterizes each of the three works separately.

Mozart’s overture to his famous rescue to sing always makes for a rousing curtain raiser, and on this occasion WASO and Tausk have highlighted the interplay between the smash go turkish classic elements and a not-too-serious balance with a real sense of fun.

This whimsical flavor is however quickly supplanted by the muscular abstractions of Beethoven when Abduraimov joins WASO and Tausk on stage.

Of a vast Allegro brilliantly full of a sparkling and sonorous cadence, through a Chopinesque reading of the Largo to an exuberant Rondo, soloist, orchestra and conductor have projected a more symphonically integrated, more Brahmsian view of this concerto (despite Abduraimov’s breathtaking virtuosity) than is usual. He provided the ideal preparation for the Prokofiev, which includes a piano in its score.

Russia may not be the flavor of the month right now, but Russian music is a different story, even when it itself was born out of a prior conflict between different forces.

Premiered in January 1945 under the composer’s direction, Prokofiev’s triumphant Symphony No. 5 was an immediate success. It’s not hard to hear why, especially in performances like this, with Tausk and WASO grasping the expressive potential of Prokofiev’s abundance of melodies and rich score to amplify the unique ability of the composer to undermine ostensible patriotism with wit and irony.

The sheer beauty (if that’s the right word in this context) of the orchestral sound took me right back to Britten’s recent powerful performance of WASO requiem of war under Asher Fisch. Ironic in itself, given the pacifist origins of this work.

The West Australian Symphony performs Beethoven & Prokofiev again at the Perth Concert Hall on Saturday September 3rd at 7.30pm.

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