MSO Plays Tchaikovsky Review: A performance full of power and emotional consistency

03.19.17
Sir Andrew Davis, Daniil Trifonov
The Age (Melbourne)

Before starting the Pathetique Symphony, Sir Andrew Davis made a plea that the audience not applaud after the third movement, a fiercely exciting march; he wanted to lead straight into the bleak final Adagio without cutting the tension. Friday night's willing audience followed instructions and just as well: what Davis emphasised in his reading of Tchaikovsky's masterpiece was that thread of tragedy underpinning the work from its lugubrious opening to the last moments' fade-to-black despair.
 
Since chief conductor Hiroyuki Iwaki's time, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has played this work with sympathy and flair, but it's hard to recall another interpretation to compare with Friday's for power and emotional consistency. In the central movements, Davis found a ground of difference: an unsettling urgency in the 5/4 Allegro con grazia, balanced by a gruff violence in the following vivace. The result was a revelation of how unfailingly sombre this farewell score is at its core, particularly pointed in the impassioned address from all quarters of the MSO, the horn choir full-voiced and reliable in a masterful, precise display.
 
Speaking of masters, Daniil Trifonov built on the success of his recital last Tuesday with a riveting account of the solo part to Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 1. For sheer technique, this performer is an extraordinary talent, hurtling across his instrument with a scouring focus and energy. Of course, the flashy stretches left you gob-smacked but this young man is capable of more, shown by his lilting delicacy in the all-too-brief central movement.