...with Nikolai Lugansky.
At last night's Prom he was playing the "Paganini Rhapsody", looking elegant and cool despite the sweltering heat inside the Royal Albert Hall. His playing was delicate and passionate; carrying one away on the swooningly romantic Big Tune, then dancing gleefully in the spikier, more percussive fast episodes; mad and manic, solomn and magnificent, soft and rueful at the end... It was real hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff, utterly, utterly gorgeous. Like Mr Lugansky himself.
A pity the second half was a bit rum-ti-tum; a Tchaikovsky suite that would have made a good final act to a happy-endinged ballet. The finale would be perfect stuff for an OTT Grand Pas de Deux, with lots of tricky balances and big one-handed lifts, a show-off variation for the bloke and something with fish dives to finish off with. Perhaps to tag on to one of those weird (to my eyes) Russian "Swan Lake"s with the happy ending? I know one is prejudiced by background in these things, but I always find the happy-end "Swan Lake" versions jarring... The music is so melancholy in its triumph, so luminously, tearfully transcendant, that I can't match it to Odette's sudden reappearance in a hastily-thrown-on pink frock and happy-bride smile...
For those who aren't mild balletomanes, by the way, that link shows the great Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo, at the end of a fish dive; ten seconds before that picture was taken, Ms Rojo will have been above Mr Acosta's head, probably balanced by him on one hand. If they both look just a trifle stern, that's why - they've just executed a complicated and rather dangerous manouevre. In another fraction of a second they would both have dazzling smiles on their faces again, but this picture captures the split second thought of "Is this going to hold?" any sane person would have if they were doing this. For comparison, here are two stars of ABT, also looking more determined than smiley, and here is Alina Cojocaru and another chap from ABT, also looking slightly worried. It seems to be a move that gets to everyone, even the greats.
Haven't been able to find a picture of Marianela Nuñez, she of the 1000-watt smile, doing a fish dive. It's hard to imagine anything making her frown, mind you.