The first, Aerial, opens with an otherworldly Prelude before passing through the instrumental intricacy of Garden of birds, concluding with the vaguely gamelan-like textures of Other shores. The second movement, Terrestrial, moves from the lightly energetic rhythms of Dancing bird a scherzo of astonishing dexterity to the coda of Bird, a tiny satellite, a synthesis of musics already heard, whose sustained solo line gave the work a final repose.
Camilla Hoitenga brought her customary flair and sensitivity to the solo part, which employed the gamut of flute techniques, including ones she has herself developed. Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO were committed in support. If, as an overall piece, this was emotionally lightweight compared to the involving Graal Théatre heard last year, its elegance and panache ought to have made Saariaho new friends.
The outer works were complementary to an effective degree. Jurowski brought out the haunting atmosphere of Lieutenant Kijes birth and burial, but rather rushed the Romance its insinuating double-bass melody given little room to express itself. The evergreen wedding and Troika numbers were incisive, but lacking a degree of panache.
Much the same could be said of The Firebird heard in its complete format. Unlike Stravinskys later ballets, theres a fair amount of choreographic music here that can seem redundant in the concert hall, but Jurowski steered a firm course through these sections, emphasising instrumental colour and shading. The main set pieces were generally well handled, including a buoyant Scherzo with the golden apples and expressive but never mawkish accounts of the Round dance and Berceuse. The brooding Introduction lacked anticipation, while Firebirds Dance and Supplication were rather rushed saturated with Scriabin-isms they may be, but worth savouring all the same.
Most disappointing was Jurowskis superficial dash through the Apotheosis again, derivative of Stravinskys models, but an ending that can be exhilarating given a little subtlety. Throughout, the LPOs playing suggested a level of concentration beyond which it was not prepared to go despite Jurowski giving them many opportunities to do so. Such would have turned an enjoyable performance into a memorable one.
- The next LPO Saariaho concert is on May 19 Christoph Eschenbach conducting Tchaikovskys Piano Concerto No.1 (Lang Lang), Brahmss First Symphony and the London premiere of Saariahos Nymphea Reflection
- RFH Box Office 020 7960 4201 www.rfh.org.uk