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Review of Alexey Stadler Prom

Alexey Stadler‘s unexpected Proms debut last night was such stuff as careers are made on

Alexey Stadler

Performing at the Proms on a day’s notice is the sort of thing that features in students’ nightmares (probably with no clothes on), but 25-year-old cellist Alexey Stadler handled last night’s unexpected debut at one of the world’s most prestigious music festivals, in place of an ill Truls Mørk, with poise and guts – even performing a movement of Bach as an encore, spurred on by a delighted audience.

He had plenty to feel confident about, though – this was an intelligent performance of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, with long lines and beautiful phrasing. If it was under-rehearsed, there was little evidence – although he had performed it in June with the San Francisco Symphony and Vladimir Ashkenazy. He played close attention to the orchestra, especially in a beautiful duet with the clarinet in the slow movement.

Stadler holds his cello quite low, reminiscent of Rostropovich, but as yet he lacks the weight of sound and depth of vibrato of that master. There might have been a little more ugliness and anger in the characters of Shostakovich’s acerbic concerto, but no doubt that will come with age. Indeed, the Bach (the Sarabande from the Suite no.2) suited him better, beautifully conceived, simple and unmannered, but expressive and meaningful. It certainly made me want to hear more from him, and I’m sure we will.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko gave a disciplined but warm-sounding performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Symphony, which was all the more enjoyable for building steadily and not being pulled around too much, and there were glowing solos from concertmaster Thelma Handy.

I enjoyed Emily Howard’s Torus for the impression it gave me of a moving canvas with sweeps of orchestral string textures and colours, overlaid with beautiful wind and brass details. Reading the programme later I realised that wasn’t the composer’s intention at all, and it was all about maths, but nevertheless the work was compelling.

Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

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