Riordan, RTÉ NSO/Buribayev

 

DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, Chatham Row

PROKOFIEV’S two-movement Second Symphony, written in 1924 and 1925 is very much a work of its time.

It’s like a downmarket Rite of Springthat taps into the strange musical vein represented by Mossolov’s Iron Foundry, Honegger’s Pacific 231 (a celebration of a locomotive), and Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique.

Prokofiev set out to shock through a veritable assault on the senses. And although he retained an affection for the piece, he realised the result was an overload.

He was actually planning a revision at the time of his death in 1953.

What would he have done with the noisy clutter of the first movement?

And how might he have toned down the density of some of the variations that follow the calm theme of the second?

Alan Buribayev’s performance with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra on Friday was careful and thorough, shocking, exciting, and, in brief moments, extremely beautiful.

The Second is the least often performed of Prokofiev’s seven symphonies, and Buribayev coupled it with one of the least often heard of Richard Strauss’s works, the suite of music he wrote for Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme, originally planned as a prologue to the opera Ariadne auf Naxos.

Buribayev compiled a linking script, which was delivered in a cap and nightgown with exaggerated pomposity by Arthur Riordan.

The sophisticated pastiche of the music came across as if the heavy gloves had not been fully taken off after the
Prokofiev.

The target was clear, but the musical aim, in spite of some excellent solo playing, notably by the night’s leader, Elaine Clark, was well wide of the mark.