Monday 12 March 2018
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic
Revueltas, Roukens, Prokofiev
Arthur and Lucas Jussen have been highly popular for many years as the delightful young brother pianists. Nowadays, they are a couple of trendy young men and their fame is increasing rather than diminishing. While they still dazzle, as ever, in the staple masterpieces, either on their own or together, they can also now be heard regularly performing large, often immensely difficult contemporary works. They’ve become true ambassadors for such pieces.
After introducing a double concerto by Dobrinka Tabakova last November, the Jussens gave the world premiere of a concerto for two pianos at the most recent NTR Saturday Matinee concert. They performed this work by Joey Roukens, commissioned by the Matinee series, with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by Emilio Pomarico.
This overwhelming three-movement concerto is entitled ‘In Unison’. Unison is a musical term indicating that multiple instruments are playing the same melodic lines.
In an interview given before the concerto, Mr Roukens explained that he had opted for a musical structure with many unison passages because he wanted the piano parts to sound as if they were being played by “one four-armed super-pianist”. The composer also said that the boundless energy of Lucas and Arthur had inspired him to write a driven and dynamically powerful work.
That energy was apparent in abundance in the rapid, lively opening movement – ‘Neon Toccata’ – which proved to be highly accessible due to its easily understood harmonic structure. Despite the vast orchestral forces, the Jussens’ playing was never swamped. This movement did leave a slightly overstressed, densely-layered impression, thanks to the constantly high dynamic level.
One can imagine that if the orchestra had the chance to play this piece more often and if the composer were perhaps to trim back the instrumentation a little more, the music might gain in transparency. Sadly, we only have this single performance for the time being.
Fantastical, often repetitive sounds turned the slow central movement – “What If” – into a true musical sensation. Hell seemed to break loose in the final movement – “Dark Ride”. The hammering duet of the pianos over the thundering roll of timpani formed the climax here. On this occasion, the timpanist was Paul Jussen, principal timpanist at the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and the young men’s father.
The stirring “Sensemaya” by Silvestre Revueltas was a fitting prelude to Roukens’ concerto. By contrast, Prokofiev’s surly, predominantly granite-hard Second Symphony seemed too serious to grasp after Roukens’ spectacular work.
Christo Lelie, Trouw 12.3.2018