The Russian communicator

Michael Church | January/February 2012

Audiences and orchestras in the West always need a Russian conductor to fall in love with, and the current apple of their eye is the charismatic Vladimir Jurowski. When he takes the helm for a series of concerts entitled “Sergei Prokofiev: Man of the People?” at London’s Southbank Centre in January, he will be playing to his strengths. A born communicator, he will be doing for his great compatriot what he has already done for Tchaikovsky and Schnittke, shedding new light on music people thought they knew, but didn’t.

Jurowski is one of the last musicians to have done their apprenticeship under the Soviet system, and his intensity can be unnerving. He approaches the canon with a Soviet reverence: he vowed not to conduct Beethoven’s Ninth before he was 40 and next May, a month after his 40th birthday, he will conduct it with the London Philharmonic, whose principal conductor he is. Glyndebourne is his other fiefdom, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic and Russian National Orchestra among his regular ports of call.

After growing up with his parents, siblings and grandmothers in a two-room flat in Moscow, Jurowski followed his conductor father to Germany, where he learned his craft and has settled with his wife and children. Lucidity and passion are the hallmarks of his conducting, and of his forcefully articulate English. If he has a fault, it lies in his defiant championing of joyless new works which would have done better to remain unperformed. Nobody’s perfect. ~ Michael Church

"Sergei Prokofiev: Man of the People?" Royal Festival Hall, London, January 13th to February 1st

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