Demidenko plays Beethoven

International Series Two – Saturday 27 June 2015, 7:30 pm Dunedin Town Hall

Jessica Cottis, Conductor; Nikolai Demidenko, Piano

Brahms (arr. Dvorak): Hungarian Dances Nos. 17 – 21
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
Dvorak: Symphony No. 8


Southern Sinfonia gave a great concert to the well-filled Dunedin Town Hall last Saturday evening, under the baton of one amazingly energetic young lady – Australian-born Conductor Jessica Cottis. Totally obsessed with the works she was presenting, Cottis drew the very best from our city symphony orchestra, as they responded to her infectious enthusiasm.

They began with Brahms (arr. Dvorak) Hungarian Dances Nos. 17 – 21. Dvorak was a friend of Brahms and created brilliant colourful scoring for the dances, which were originally four-hand piano works.

Cheerful and optimistic, the five dances were an excellent opener for the sixty piece orchestra, who displayed particularly compact string texture and energised delivery from all sections.

With the orchestra on a “high,” Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko came on stage for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 to enthral the audience with his remarkable, personally innovative interpretation of this great work, with Cottis allowing him freedom of expression. No 4 begins rather unusually with a gentle piano passage of invitation to the orchestra. The forty minute work then traversed the innumerable paths of intense Beethovian utterance, melodic tranquillity contrasting with great vibrancy, clarity of unrelenting cascading scalic passages, and a brilliant cadenza which could be a stand-alone work. Unexpected and impeccably executed by orchestra and soloist alike, was the extreme diminuendo accorded the final moments of the 2nd movement. After a brilliant final movement, Demidenko responded to prolonged applause with Chopin’s Minute Waltz Op.64 No.1.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 (1889) is a bright happy work inspired by the composer’s love of Bohemian folk tunes. Plenty of brass colour and timpani to jolly things along, and the Finale with its complexity of themes and variations ended this excellent orchestral concert with satisfying jubilation.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Bouman for the Otago Daily Times, Monday, 29 June 2015.

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