Both were heard for the first time within about a year of each other, although they were years in the making, and both are endlessly popular with audiences, for their sweeping melodies and big, bold orchestration.
The piano concerto, which begins this all-Rachmaninov concert, enjoyed unexpected renewed fame when, in the 1996 film Shine, it was played by the troubled main character, a pianist pushed by his father. The actor Geoffrey Rush who played the real-life pianist David Helfgott, whose story Shine tells, mastered the piece to perform it on camera.
With its searching opening melody, from its opening bars, through elaborate development to its breakneck closing bars, it is one of the most compelling pieces in the repertoire, and distinctively Russian in its plaintive and tumultuous passion.
The Symphony No 2, coming 10 years after the catastrophic First, also contains references to Rachmaninov’s homeland, never far from his thoughts as he worked undisturbed in Dresden, and is at times reminiscent of the composer’s countryman Tchaikovsky. Its galloping second movement is particularly exhilarating, and the third movement melts the heart.
The Proms’ core orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Thomas Dausgaard. The Latvian Radio Choir sings the Russian orthodox chant that is woven into the last movement of the symphony, and tonight’s soloist is the Ukrainian-born Australian pianist, Alexander Gavrylyuk.
The sonorous Latvian Radio Choir returns to the Royal Albert Hall later this same evening for a late night performance of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, Vespers (Prom 38, 9.45PM- 11PM). This profound and passionate religious work takes full advantage of the stirring voices of the choir, and conjures up the expectation and triumph of a night spent waiting for the Resurrection.
Before its first performance in 1915, the conductor said: ‘Where on earth are we to find such basses? They are as rare as asparagus at Christmas!’ Happily, the Latvian Radio Choir has its own, rich source.
|What||Prom 37: Rachmaninov, Royal Albert Hall|
|Where||Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP | MAP|
|Nearest tube||South Kensington (underground)|
On 13 Aug 17, 6:00 PM – 8:45 PM
|Price||£ 6 - £40|