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Ravel – Hillborg - Berlioz

 Ravel:  La valse

Hillborg: Clarinet Concerto (Peacock Tales)

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique


Gottenburg Symphony Orchestra / Gustavo Dudamel

Martin Frost - clarinet

Royal Albert Hall – Prom, 13 August 2008


After the astonishing Prom with his Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra last year Gustavo Dudamel did not disappoint the capacity audience.


Ravel’s tongue in cheek homage to the waltz, displayed in abundance the nervous energy without which no conductor can hope to succeed.  This was again evident in the rather strange clarinet concerto by Andres Hillborg, where the virtuoso soloist gyrated around the stage, sometimes wearing a mask.  The significance of his mime and the accompanying coloured lights remain rather a mystery, especially as the programme notes only amounted to a few lines of description. *


An intense, utterly Romantic account of that elusive masterpiece, the Symphonie Fantastique of Berlioz was greeted by a storm of applause, intended, I think not only for the musicians but also as a tribute to the composer. 


Granting the inevitable encores, the conductor produced one of his trademark South American dances, eliciting an ecstatic scream from his audience.  The extent to which this Latin American music had seduced the straight-laced Scandinavians was revealed when the Brass section indulged in a few dance moves.  If this man could be persuaded to host the Last Night, the roof of this venerable Hall would be blown off by his explosive energy.  Not that anyone would notice – they would be on a conga-trail through the Park to cool off in the Serpentine!   Let us hope we do not have to wait too long for his return!


The excitement and pleasure generated by this concert gives rise to the thought that the Venezuelan experiment with violent teenagers might be repeated in the UK.


In Harmony, a scheme announced by our beleaguered government, aims to give instruments to children from the poorest areas, teach them to play them, and eventually to join an orchestra.  It is to be hoped that In Harmony will receive the support it deserves – “Time Out” magazine is arranging for old instruments to be donated (contact in_harmony@timeout.com).


The potency of music to establish a harmonious community is also demonstrated by the success of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra the following night.** Anything which will give meaning to the lives of thousands of young people on the edge of despair must be welcomed.


Stuart Jenkins


* Q.v. Hillborg's concertos on Musical Pointers


** Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as seen on TV impressed, especially by bringing Schoenberg's Variations for Orchestra, which has long been reckoned "difficult", to so wide an audience as fills the Albert Hall and watch television. With expressive, lucid performances like this one (and CDs as good as Hilary Hahn's of the Violin Concerto) revaluation of that key 20.C composer seems to be well underway. Robert Cratf's series on Naxos making the whole range of his music accessible at bargain prices. [Editor]