Prom 32: Britten Sinfonia / Ludovic Morlot / Katia and Marielle Labèque / Philip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips / Lidija and Sanja Bizjak - Royal Albert Hall, 9 August 2009
Fauré, orch. Rabaud Dolly (suite) Mozart Concerto in E flat major for two pianos, K365 Anna Meredith Left Light Lutoslawski Variations on a Theme by Paganini for two pianos Saint-Saëns The Carnival of the Animals
The first concert on Sunday – Multiple Pianos Day at the Proms – could only summon up two pianos, but six pianists to play them alongside the Britten Sinfonia.
The highlight of the afternoon was the high-voltage hair-tossing panache of Katia (white jacket, black shirt) and Marielle (black tux, scary bondage top) Labèque ripping through Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations to begin the second half.
It more than compensated for some woolly and imprecise playing in their first half Mozart two-piano concerto. This was (oddly but effectively) bookended with Fauré’s Dolly suite in the glutinously orchestrated version, and a new work by Anna Meredith.
Left Light – the title refers not to poetically-evoked dusk, but a traffic indicator of all things – began with the unpromising cliché of two blokes (Philip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips) rummaging through the guts of their respective pianos. Widely-spaced chords land like slow fat raindrops, then gradually gather pace and volume and instruments, speeding to a final wash of sound. It’s an idea Anna Meredith has used more creatively in the past. Here, the orchestration sounded raw, and if there were any finer details they were lost in the Royal Albert Hall’s punishing acoustic. Worst of all, the elderly traditionalist standing next to me, primed for aural offence by “noisy modern nonsense” pronounced it “a bit dull really”. Quite.
Snapping at the Labèque heels are another pair of piano-playing sisters, the Belgrade born and Paris resident Lidija and Sanja Bizjak. Their dexterity and delicacy enhanced Ludovic Morlot’s charming reading of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. It's not a work I would ever search out, but in occasional doses, and performed with the light touch and unforced humour it received here, it's the perfect end to a Sunday afternoon.