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Debussy & Ravel

Debussy/Ravel: Nuages & Fêtes for piano duo
Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole for piano duo; Ma mère l'oye for piano duet : Boléro arr. for piano duo & percussion

Labeque sisters & Kalakan

Queen Ellisabeth Hall, 17 February 2013

A strange short Sunday afternoon concert in a packed QEH. The Labeque sisters were hardly stretched by their programme, which they played from music. The audience seemed to have come especially for Boléro, which had an uproarious reception. Ravel said about it: "I have written one masterpiece, Bolero, which contains no music."

The quarter-hour insistent percussion crescendo was dispensed by Kalakan, a Spanish trio of percussionists who took over QEH afterwards for a long encore sequence, with the Labeque sisters sat on the floor to listen... Try Labeques+Kalakan's Boléro on YouTube...

The Kalakans sang too and brought in the audience to help with chordal accompaniments.

Odd, but good to see QEH full of people enjoying themselves. A short break and then over to the Festival Hall.

Britten, Bridge & Shostakovich

Bridge The Sea Shostakovich Piano Concerto No.2 in F, Op.102 Britten Spring Symphony

Philharmonia Orchestra/Edward Gardner
Kirill Gerstein (piano); Allan Clayton, Susan Gritton & Christine Rice; CBSO Chorus, Youth Chorus & Children’s Chorus

Royal Festival Hall February 17, 2013

A welcome airing for The Sea (1911), varied music pictures which inspired Britten as a child and led to his becoming Frank Bridge's most famous pupil. Great sound from a full sized Philharmonia. It was a little reduced (no heavy brass) for the Shostakovich concerto, which begins with childlike simplicity, but soon we are immersed in heavy music which the soloist struggled manfully to make himself heard; and failed. Not a patch on the first of his two piano concertos.

Loud was the word for Britten's witty Spring Symphony too, a helter-skelter rush through Early English poetry which would have remained inscrutable for an international audience even with subtitles. Those were useful reminders for those of us who knew the work and were eager to find whether it stands up to revival.

I thought not quite; the greatest strength of this well prepared performance (destined for a Philharmonia CD?) was Alan Clayton in the Peter Pears part. Susan Gritton had too little to contribute, and did so well, but Christine Rice was the weakest of the three. The huge choral forces had girls instead of Britten's preferred boys... There was ample noise from the combined forces in the big moments.

Peter Grahame Woolf