Mariinsky Orchestra/Gergiev review - charm and wolfish drama

Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Doing double duty as conductor and narrator, Valery Gergiev gave a resonant and dramatic account of Peter and the Wolf

The list of people who’ve recorded the narration of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is long and remarkable, including David Attenborough, Leonard Bernstein, Alice Cooper and John Gielgud. Perhaps Valery Gergiev will now emulate Bernstein, following this performance during the Mariinsky Orchestra’s brief Cardiff residency in which he achieved the double: conducting and narrating, tiny baton in right hand, microphone in the left. He opted for a simple telling of the tale but, with his resonant voice, warm in tone plus the authentic Russian accent, Gergiev sounded the part. Perhaps it was to be expected that he should reserve an extra bit of drama for the gruff grandfather and the wolf.

Since their recent St Petersburg performances of the piece were with an actor narrating, the Mariinsky musicians seemed to enjoy this turn of events. The wind instruments delivered the characteristic solos with panache, as though challenging their boss to engage even more energetically. He responded, disarmingly genial and, by the end, looking as pleased as Peter catching the wolf. This was a family concert, with attendant extraneous noises, yet even if the name Gergiev meant nothing to the smallest kids, everyone loved the feel of the occasion.

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite had preceded the Prokofiev. Here, grace alternated with exuberance; Gergiev, carefully varying the tempi, brought out dancing countermelodies. Something that might have been routinely predictable instead invoked both the great Mariinsky tradition and Tchaikovsky’s elegantly crafted charm.

•At Cadogan Hall, London, 18 April, for a concert performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Box office: 020-7730 4500.


Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

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