Salome – Dance of the Seven Veils
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op.21
La valse – poème choreographique
La tragédie de Salomé, Op.50
Nelson Freire (piano)
Trinity College of Music Chamber Choir
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Alex Verney-Elliott
Reviewed: 27 February, 2009
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
The BBC Symphony Orchestra’s imaginative programme opened with a tasteful account of Richard Strauss’s Dance of the Seven Veils. The young and very talented Lionel Bringuier conducted with crystal-clear clarity securing first-class playing and taking the music at a much broader pace than is usual, substituting garish vulgarity with refinement and restraint. Only the rather muffled and unvaried timpani-playing detracted, as it did throughout the concert.
Nelson Freire than gave an exquisitely agile, lucid and delicate account of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2. Freire was in buoyant and flexible form, free from rhetorical gestures and over-accented mannerisms. Bringuier and the BBCSO gave sensitive support throughout and were in total rapport with the soloist.
The second half opened with Ravel’s La valse, for which Bringuier kept tempos taut, the piece played straight, yet without mastering the complex cross-rhythms that such as Toscanini, Cantelli and Monteux could really pull off. Furthermore, the bass-line was barely audible, the essential menace from cellos and double basses lacking presence.
The concert ended with Florent Schmitt’s The Tragedy of Salome for large orchestra (and women’s chorus), strikingly similar in style to the concert-opening excerpt from Strauss’s Salome with its overt vulgarity and meretricious orchestration. What distinguished this perfectly paced and balanced performance was the wonderful woodwind playing, which had atmospheric élan, and the strings brought appropriate eerieness and acidic bite, the percussion intense and brilliant without sounding noisy in this in-your-face acoustic. It was good to hear this very evocative and stylish account of Schmitt’s underplayed work.