FringeReview UK 2019

Alvin Moisey Recital

Alvin Moisey

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton

Festival:


Low Down

Alvin Moisey’s piano recital was wholly based on music reduced from orchestral score for three Russian ballets – though only Tchaikowsky’s Sleeping Beauty Prologue and the concluding Stravinsky Firebird were designed for dance. The middle piece, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was specifically banned for such use – till the composer died.

Review

 

Alvin Moisey’s piano recital was wholly based on music reduced from orchestral score for three Russian ballets – though only Tchaikowsky’s Sleeping Beauty Prologue and the concluding Stravinsky Firebird were designed for dance. The middle piece, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was specifically banned for such use – till the composer died.

 

Moisey’s a phenomenal performer. Not only does he manage the virtuosity these spiky reduced scores command as a given – they’re prickled with accents, sweep and crescendi – he proves was a superb colourist he is. There’s not much room for subtlety in such ballets: they’re orchestral, a series of dance numbers and very Russian as well as Romantic.

 

First up was the Tchaikowsky Sleeping Beauty Prologue – not quite as well-known as some stretches of his ballet. It’s a haunting curtain-raiser, full of subtle ripples and pianistic glissandi more delicate than the succeeding works.

 

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade lasts forty-five minutes and was never intended as a ballet. However Diaghalev, his one-time brief pupil (Moisey reminds us Rimsky scorned his compositions) got his way, programming it as a ballet alongside the next, vey famous smash of 1910.

 

Here the contrast is if anything heightened between the two main protagonists, loud and soft. There’s the stentorian prince vowing to execute all his wives straight after enjoying them on their wedding night (after some dim misadventure). He’s stayed by the violin solo of Scheherazade herself, who lulls with him with 1001 cliff-hangers till he relents.

 

Pianistically this works as Moisey manages the abrupt transitions with storytelling intimacy an aplomb. You understand too why Sviatislav Richter loved to play through Rimsky operas on the piano. There’s much more to discover behind his superb orchestration. The actual score is reduced to 15 minutes, ad the adventures fined down so the re-emerging main themes dominate. But there’s swirling glissandi between, storms, shipwreck, sword fights, much else suggested in the compressed compass of such language. It’s a necessary magic, it has to work, but it more tan does. Moisey has the requisite sweep to render this as a sparky, spiky but mainly swooping piece of romanticism, heady and heartfelt I its final bars. Well Scheherazade certainly kept her head too.

 

Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite has been played as an entire reduction by Idil Biret. Here, the final three numbers – the same for the ballet and suite – are more than enough.

 

We start with the explosive Infernal Dance of Katché – here Stravinsky’s harmonic originality really is laid bare. The insistent rhythms, the hammering repeats as the clarinets – originally – screech dissonances. All these herald the true Stravinsky perhaps more than anything else till then. Moisey erupts on dotted rhythms and abrupt swivels shooting glissandi up and down the keyboard.

 

There’s a brief respite, but more stark harmonies in the Sleeping Princesses and breaking of the egg with Katché’s soul in it. It’s a kind of Berceuse. But of course we move realtively quickly to the final celebration. The crescendo Moisey avails himself of are exciting, there’s no blurring and again the glissandi, particularly the final ones, are delivered with point and mounting excitement.

 

This was altogether an exceptionally interesting, exceptionally delivered programme. Moisey’s return is eagerly awaited.

Published