Boston Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Haitink at Carnegie Hall – Ravel programme with Susan Graham – Alborada del gracioso, Shéhérazade, Daphnis and Chloé

Miroirs – Alborada del gracioso
Daphnis et Chloé

Susan Graham (mezzo-soprano)

Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 12 February, 2014
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Bernard Haitink © Matthias CreutzigerA somewhat depleted Carnegie Hall audience greeted this Ravel playbill by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its Conductor Emeritus, Bernard Haitink. It was a terrific concert, Haitink, soon to be 85, in fine fettle, conducting with vigour. These Ravel pieces are staples of the BSO’s repertoire, delivered here with charisma and conviction.

Alborada del gracioso, orchestrated in 1918, comes from the 1905 piano suite Miroirs, infused with Spanish character and ruminative dawn moods. In parts a riotous affair, Haitink and the Bostonians captured expertly the music’s shifting moods to produce a fun aural ride. Shéhérazade finds the composer at his most seductive in these three songs of longing, with exoticism to the foreground. Susan Graham’s delivery was a little too direct at times. Nevertheless, she searched-out the nostalgic aspects of the verses by Tristan Klingsor (nom de plume of Léon Leclère), and found heart-wrenching contentment in the last of the triptych ‘L’indifférént’. Throughout, she was given exemplary support, the strings especially breathing beauty into the music.

Daphnis and Chloé cries out to be heard in full. The pictures-in-sound painted by the BSO and Haitink stunned at every turn, a performance that would have found dancers totally superfluous, such was the ecstatic revelry on offer. The slow unfolding of the opening section was lush, and changes in dynamics were outstandingly effected, contributing to the orgiastic waves of passion. Haitink’s control matched Ravel’s precision of notation and flawless orchestration, a rendition that compelled throughout, aided by the vocalise of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

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