Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, leader Mark Derudder
Fabien Gabel: Conductor
Frank Braley: Piano
ALL four works in this richly enjoyable and varied concert were first performed in a span of less than twenty years between 1897 and 1916. If a time machine could take us to 2116, wouldn’t it be fascinating to see which works from 1997 to 2016 were in the BSO’s repertoire?
Debussy was represented by an orchestral suite from his 1898 opera Pelléas et Mélisande, but his influence spread throughout the entire programme. Debussy was, of course, a master of mood and atmosphere, and his never-failing ability to conjure gorgeous and original sounds from the standard symphony orchestra inspired his contemporaries to emulate him.
The programme began with an orchestral piece by his older friend and contemporary Chausson. Soir de fête conjures up the night of a feast day. Scurrying, frantic partying sandwiches a more nocturnal and reflective central section. A passage in which the flutes introduce a theme which is shadowed and developed by violas and then violins, while two harps shimmer in the background showed Debussy’s influence clearly.
Next, we journeyed to Spain. For French composers such as Bizet and Debussy, Spain was a fascinating, exotic appendix to Europe, on the way to North Africa. The characteristic rhythms of Spanish dance and folk music pervade de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a three-movement piece for piano and orchestra which is definitely not a piano concerto in disguise, but uses the piano as first among equals as an orchestral instrument. Braley’s performance in the solo role had moments of dazzling virtuosity, with violent and dramatic glissando sweeps across the keyboard almost bringing him to his feet. But the keynote remained collaboration rather than competition with the rest of the orchestra. His encore, a Debussy prelude infused with the rhythm of the Habanera dance, was perfectly chosen and brilliantly played.
After the Debussy suite we were treated to a blazing performance of Stravinsky’s suite from his ballet The Firebird, in which inventiveness of orchestration reached new heights, building on the Russian tradition of Rimsky-Korsakov and others. Under the decisive and firm baton of Frenchman Fabien Gabel, the orchestra shone, despite receiving little assistance from the hard acoustic of the concert hall.
You can catch up with this memorable concert, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, on BBC iPlayer: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b071fnw2