Perth Concert Hall
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Both Felix Mendelssohn and the TB-riddled Frederic Chopin tumbled off the twig before they turned 40. But they were mighty quick off the starting block. As teenagers, they both scaled Olympus: Mendelssohn’s Octet, heard here only the other day, was written at 16 – and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 was completed when he was a mere19.
Alexander Gavrylyuk, no slouch himself – he won the Horowitz International Piano Competition when he was all of 15 years old – dazzled in music by both Chopin and Mendelssohn at the Concert Hall at the weekend.
His account of the Chopin concerto was a marvel of musicianship: an imperious opening statement which gave way to wondrously expansive treatment of much of the opening movement. The nocturne-like slow movement was a model of refined expressiveness – and in the finale, fearless, infallible fingers wrought wonders in articulating the concerto’s villainously intricate solo part.
An audience that filled stalls, galleries and choir stalls to near-capacity could not contain its enthusiasm and burst into wild applause before the final bars of the concerto were played – unprecedented at a Master Series concert.
There was a sensational response with Gavrylyuk essaying Vladimir Horowitz’s horrendously demanding arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. Here, those oh-so-familiar phrases were re-visited with such grandeur and brilliance that many in the audience rose spontaneously to their feet in acknowledgment of such pianistic wizardry. What a wonderful contribution towards this bicentenary year of Mendelssohn’s birth in 1809.
As curtain raiser, we heard a smartly detailed account of the overture to Rossini’s opera The Italian Girl in Algiers and, after the interval, Schubert’s Symphony No 9, known as The Great.
Of considerable length, the Ninth, in the wrong hands, can so easily sound interminable. There was not a hint of that in Oleg Caetani’s direction of the piece. Clearly identifying closely with the score, which he conducted from memory, Caetani set and maintained tempi that ensured buoyancy of momentum. Occasionally, there was a need for the brass section to rein in its muscle-flexing to provide a more tonally discreet contribution – but this is a minor reservation about an interpretation made meaningful by close attention to detail without losing sight of the grand sweep of the work.