Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Sibelius, Duparc, Ravel

Siblelius: Symphony No. 1 in E minor
Duparc: ‘L’Invitation au voyage’, ‘Extase’, ‘Le manoir de Rosemonde’, ‘Chanson triste’, ‘Phidylé’
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2

Magdalena Kocenzá – mezzo-soprano Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons

Prom 61 Royal Albert Hall – 31 August 2009

Last night’s Prom was thrilling from start to finish. Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra confirmed their accolade as ‘the world’s greatest orchestra’ (Gramophone 2008) in a hair raising journey through sumptuously romantic music.

Ini Sibelius’ first symphony we were transfixed by the elegance and poise of the orchestra before being swept away by the maginitude of their energy and obvious enjoyment. Jansons does not micro manage his players, he rather empowers and encourages them to behave as soloists or chamber musicians as the occasion demands. In this way, you feel you have a chance to get to know individual personalities within the orchestra as well as the overall orchestral sound. The principle clarinet and the timpanist made a huge impression with breathtaking pianissmo playing I’d never heard before in the Royal Albert Hall. Later on the tuba who took my breath away. All the sections of the orchestra seemed to play as chamber music groups. The woodwind in particual moved as one on many occasions throughout the evening. I can safely say, I’ve never heard or seen such cohesion in the woodwind section of an orchestra – such complete agreement on pitch and sound quality as I was treated to last night. This cohesion carries through to the rest of the orchestra. Here, there is no division between woodwind, strings, brass and percussion; the entire orchestra plays as one body under Jansons liberal baton. He excites them to a frenzy and takes us along for the ride.

The appearance of Magadalena Kozená did little to add to the evening. If anything, the orchestra seemed a little inhibited by her presence – almost as if they struggled to hear her (as I did at certain points). The orchestration of these Duparc songs, more usually performed with piano, leans more towards Wagner rather than the Debussy or Ravel timbres which possibly would have suited Kozená more. At times I worried for her that she wouldn’t be able to sustain the sounds she was looking for particularly at the top of her range – her rigid stance and wide eyed expression did nothing to reassure me.

The concert finished with Ravel’s supreme orchestral acheivement; the second Daphnis and Chloé suite. Daphnis and Chloé was conceived as a one hour ballet for the infamous Ballet Russes and scored a huge success at its premiere in 1912, starring Nijinsky and Karsavina. Ravel having written no symphony, this music is often performed in orchestral concerts either in its entirety or as one of the two concert suites which Ravel constructed from the piece’s highlights. Here again, the orchestra shone. The principle flute thrilled us as Pan with her extended solo which eventually involves the whole section including piccolo and alto flute. The spectacle of every bow in the orchestra in synchronised movement brought the piece to it’s thundering finale and began a reception in the Royal Albert Hall which seemed as if it would never end. After two encores, Jansons took his violinist by the hand to lead the orchestra from the stage. Otherwise, I don’t think the audience would have ever let them go.

Tess Ormond