Review: "Pathétique" presented pathetically 

click to enlarge Pianist Behzod Abduraimov
  • Pianist Behzod Abduraimov

On Friday, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, the "Pathétique," appeared to be ending, its tumultuous victory cadence at hand. Following which the audience provided its own tumultuous ovation, the conductor bowed and left the stage while the orchestra members rose. Some patrons had begun exiting the hall when our Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra music director quickly returned to the podium, shouting (without amplification), "We have one more movement to go."

It was a sham. Most conductors simply wait for the applause to die, sometimes "shushing" it, then quickly begin the Adagio lamentoso, the supreme movement in Tchaikovsky's symphonic oeuvre, ending in deathly silence. By contrast, Urbański decided to hype the expected premature ovation by "pretending" the third was the concluding movement, an ill-advised, somewhat insulting move which may indeed have caused a few in the audience to miss hearing the symphony's tragic Finale.

Moreover, the symphony was badly played, especially at the start of the first and third movements, where the strings and winds went completely out of kilter. Gradually they congealed in both cases. Urbański is a far better conductor than what he showed in this work. I cannot forget the miracles he wrought with Holst's The Planets and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in preceding seasons. And, for that matter, in this symphony's fourth movement our music director returned to conduct a beautifully conceived and executed finale. So what happened? (It was reported later that Urbański did not repeat his shtick on the Saturday program.)

The program's two preceding selections fared quite a bit better, especially considering the work of young guest pianist Behzod Abduraimov, a native of Uzbekistan, in Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21. There was hardly anything one could say about Urbański's conducting as Chopin's music is almost completely centered in Abduraimov's ten fingers.

This 22-year old is easily on a par with the five American Pianists Association finalists which NUVO has reviewed in this season's APA Premiere Series. Abduraimov delivers a perfect legato touch. Shimmeringly decorative up-and-down-scale figurations adorn tuneful melodies, all nicely nuanced, sparkling with energy, drive and verve. If you listened carefully, you could hear the strings back him up with single lines, like unnecessary appendages. Abduraimov has already made his mark in the world of pianistic performance. We should get him back to hear what he does with Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Bartók . . .

Urbański began with a 25-minute tone poem by his fellow countryman Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909) entitled Stanislaw i Anna Ośweicimowie, Op. 12--as one would expect, an ISO first performance. Programmatically dealing with an incestuous affair between Stanislaw and his previously "undiscovered" sister Anna, the work resides in a post-Romantic idiom strongly reminiscent -- to me -- of the contemporary Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915).

In fact, the piece could have almost come from Scriabin's Symphony No. 3, "Divine Poem," so stylistically similar are they. Florid, opulent, pastel harmonies floating among indecisive key signatures make for an accessibility often missing in more modern works. Clearly feeling at home in this concert opener, Urbański wound his way through it with aplomb. If only he had remained consistent throughout the evening. March 1-2; Hilbert Circle Theatre

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