It can't have been easy for Frank Braley when he stepped onto the Royal Albert Hall's stage last night to play Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the Capuçon brothers and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Here he was, a relatively unknown pianist making his Proms debut -- and not only was he filling in for Martha Argerich (who'd followed long-established habit and cancelled), but he was about to perform a piece whose best-known recording features none other than Sviatoslav Richter.*
Well, I'm not going to claim that a new Argerich or Richter was revealed to the world last night. But Braley has nothing to be ashamed of, having turned in a fine performance. I can't deny, though, that he was overshadowed somewhat by the Capuçons -- Renaud on violin, Gautier on cello -- with their superb chemistry and sparkling tone.
The concerto was a welcome second half to a Prom that had had a mixed beginning. Messaien's early orchestral work Les offrandes oubliées was a beautifully played, emotionally involving piece -- two lovely slow movements sandwiching a jolting fast one. But then there was Pascal Dusapin's Morning in Long Island, a special commission making its UK premiere. This fit all too well the old cliché about modern classical music sounding like the orchestra tuning its instruments -- except for the last movement, "Swinging," which sounded like Latin jazz being played on a faulty CD (complete with clicks). I have no aversion to contemporary music; in fact, the Prom I'm looking forward to most is Steve Reich's appearance next month. But there really didn't seem to be any reason for Dusapin's piece to exist.
* Who was no slouch at cancelling concerts either. Hmmm.