Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

Demidenko & Rachmaninov with Southern Sinfonia 13 August 2011.

Unashamedly romantic, big and boisterous, Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto has become a firm favourite with concert audiences around the Western world, and the Dunedin audience is no different. Nikolai Demidenko’s performance captures the work’s full-bodied brooding as well as its mercurial light with excellently pointed and dazzling agility. The build to climax at the end of the final movement is always enthralling. While it is a big ask, at times the Southern Sinfonia strings could have been more attuned to Demidenko’s crisp vigour. Demidenko gave an encore of Chopin’s Nocturne drawing a disarming wealth of expression from a work at the other end of the dramatic scale from the Rachmaninov. And again the audience was enraptured.

Brahms’ first Symphony written on the premise as Boulez said of an entirely different style, that one just begins and the rest will follow. Performed with considerable vigour by the Southern Sinfonia, the first movement suffers from a degree of aural doodles. It gains structural strength as Beethoven’s ghost, rendered perhaps by the repeated ominous chords and drum beats which interrupt an otherwise warm melody, lifts from Brahms’ shoulders. The work was well performed and at a good speed under the direction of an unusually demonstrative Werner Andreas Albert. Special note goes to the melding of first violins and flute and clarinet.

The difficulty of Ravel’s popular collection of suites “Mother Goose” lies in not putting the audience to sleep. Its Debussy-like melodies require a degree of gravity and tension, which as every favourite uncle relating tales to favourite nieces curled securely on their laps can appreciate, makes the tales and the moment all the more precious. However, only Albert’s direction of the serene “Fairy Garden” had sufficient edge to satisfy the need for adventure.