I've been waiting twenty years to hear a live performance of Prokofiev's Sixth Symphony, one of the black masterpieces of twentieth-century music. Last night I finally got my chance, courtesy of Valery Gergiev, who has begun what promises to be a gripping four-concert survey of Prokofiev's symphonies and concertos with the London Symphony at Lincoln Center. An almost unbearable tension underpinned the performance: the Londoners played with frenzied concentration, yet Gergiev imposed a coolly controlling hand, allowing little of the rubato that characterized the Second Piano Concerto (with Vladimir Feltsman) before intermission. The coda, with its shattering dissonances separated by silences, had me in a cold sweat. The audience remained eerily quiet as Gergiev held the fermatas beyond what seemed possible. You can get a backstage glimpse of the LSO tour from the orchestra's tour blog, which seems mostly the work of flutist Gareth Davies.
Photo: Library of Congress.