I have a soft spot for Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto, especially in its grand-design original version (forty-five minutes here), rather than Siloti’s cut and emendated publication. Kirill Gerstein is a vibrant champion of what Tchaikovsky intended, here in the company of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Ben Glassberg (winner of the Grand Prix at the Besançon Competition 2017). Gerstein was in nonchalant form, rising to the brilliance and lyricism of the first movement – heroic, impetuous, shapely – and all-encompassing in the extensive cadenza, a Chopin/Liszt combo. Siloti did the most damage in the slow movement, reducing it by half and suppressing much of the ‘piano trio’ writing; here this ineffably lovely music was cosseted with star turns from Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy (associate concertmaster) and Wei Yu (principal cello) – honey-toned expressive contributions from both before Gerstein continued the music’s awakening passions, a caring/sharing threesome plus DSO; Onegin and Queen of Spades in the emotional mix. Fifteen minutes later, the Finale, done with dash and dynamism; and, as an encore, Gerstein’s Chopin Waltz was a mercurial delight.
The concert opened with some of William Walton’s music for Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film of Shakespeare’s Henry V, as made into a five-movement Suite by Muir Mathieson, who conducted the movie’s soundtrack. Glassberg led the ceremonial outer parts with gusto, yet the ‘Charge and Battle’, while musically articulate, was a little subdued; either side of this conflagrational centrepiece the DSO brought much sensitivity to the wonderful string miniatures, ‘Touch her soft lips, and part’ especially affecting – music to melt the hardest heart. In Dvořák 8 the flora-and-fauna/song-and-dance aspects were well-catered for, but Glassberg’s tendency to dot Is and cross Ts conscientiously sapped the music’s Slavonic fire a little (the Finale somewhat staid, horn trills under-represented, and with the coda’s joyous release reined-in a tad); otherwise spaciousness, eloquence (second movement) and grace (third) were to the fore, clarity of detail too; and with some persuasive flexibility of tempo Glassberg also conjured a nice line in scenic suggestion.