Kicking off a night of Rachmaninov this evening started off with two of his major pieces… and it certainly was one unique experience…The orchestra all tuned up and the conductor on the podium, pianist on the piano – all eyes on them – yet – they were not the ones starting. The Latvian Radio choir started the evening with a Russian Orthodox Chant – Grob Tvoy, Spase. Coming in from the door opposite the organ there was a very mystical atmosphere being created by this. With every verse they sang they choir moved down the stairs into the arena and then through the Promenaders. During the first few bars of this chant the audience seemed a little puzzled but this soon turned into an almost meditative feel – the musicians on stage were also seemingly absorbing this immersion into this deeply moving music. The singers slowly disappeared next to the stage and once the last note had resonated Dausgaard lifted his baton and straightaway went into Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto. This seemless transition gave the concerto an almost religious feel –  Alexander Gavrylyuk put his heart and soul into this stunningly beautiful, yet findishly difficult piece of piano literature. His accentuation and clear play of every single not was outstanding. It being one of my favourite concertos I do know the melodies by heart but his play really did bring them alive. I had never heard his name before but he has such soul and passion in his play which is second to none. It is always fascinating to see how different each pianist is and their individual qualities that are being brought to the ivories. Since he was born in the Ukraine their is probably a much more intense understanding of the Russian soul deep within him. It was a very gentle, yet powerful performance of this stunning piano work. The BBC SSO also complimented his play to beautifully – articulate and so supportive, building the tension and taking the listener to a different dimension. The ending of the concert was almost too much to take – accentuating the building up melodies and rhythms with such clear intonation gave goose bumps all around! An all around stunning and memorable rendition! Rightly so did the audience go into rapturous applause!! And a little encore followed as well…

Thomas Dausgaard was actually the first conductor I saw at the Proms back in 2010 and I really didn’t remember much other than the beauty of Rued Langaards Music of the Spheres. I sort of totally forgot what a charismatic conductor Dausgaard is – and the Danes seem to make a great harmonic match with the Scots – great dynamic between the orchestra and conductor!

The second half started with another chant – Svete tikhiy. This time the Latvian Radio Choir was singing was singing from the Gallery – yet another beautiful chant – and the same again – Dausgaard led right into Rachmaniov’s 2nd Symphony. I saw a performance of said piece several years ago in Fort Worth and their orchestra was rather challenged with it but did a great job.  Well, the BBC SSO was stellar! Already on the Rach Planet their intensity was superb – certainly one of those pieces where you can just forget where you are if it is played to this level! Lasting an hour there are a few moments in there that potentially could loose the tension and drag out but Dausgaard kept the momentum going – I was on the edge of my seat the whole of the performance – to the extend that the usher who happend to sit behind me said to me that it looked like I particularly enjoyed this piece!

It was another spectacular evening – with such a great atmosphere in the hall and an orchestra delivering world class music!

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