Symphony in C
Steven Osborne (piano) & Cynthia Millar (ondes Martenot)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: David Truslove
Reviewed: 4 October, 2017
Venue: Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset, England
What an explosive start to the Bournemouth Symphony’s Orchestra’s new season, a remarkable programme too, from the élan of Bizet to the exotically-charged extravagance of Messiaen, French composers worlds apart yet these respective works exhibit uninhibited joy.
Under Kirill Karabits’s clear direction the exuberance of Bizet’s youthful Symphony in C shone through in spades. It was written when he was seventeen, in 1855, but not known about until 1933, and from the opening bars the BSO delivered crisp phrases, brimming with vitality and playfulness, confirming the work as no mere trifle. To the doleful main theme of the Adagio oboist Edward Kay brought considerable eloquence while violins soared to convey azure skies and romantic allure. More could have been made of the Scherzo’s rusticity and innocent charm, but it was carried off with commendable ease, and equally polished was the scintillating Finale in which scampering strings dazzled with light-as-air passages, its ‘Tom and Gerry’ mania dispatched gleefully with not a misplaced semiquaver to be heard.
This outing for Messiaen’s Turangalîla marked Karabits’s debut with it and he and the BSO bestrode its challenges with complete assurance in the company of Steven Osborne and Cynthia Millar, both have a long association with the work.
In a performance lasting just over eighty minutes Karabits made a strong case for Turangalîla’s symphonic appellation, structural integrity a guiding principle, the ten movements superbly paced, Karabits giving the players ample opportunity to make their mark; clarity of articulation and technical assurance were outstanding, but the higher reaches of the ondes Martenot – the electronic instrument that creates voluptuous and unearthly timbres – penetrated the orchestra to ear-clasping effect. In the evocative sections Millar was a soothing presence amid ravishing strings and Osborne’s crystalline bird-calls.
Amongst other memorable moments was the delicate jazz combo of ‘Chant d’amour 2’, startling for its funky piccolo and bassoon duet (with accompanying vibraphone and suspended cymbal) and the searing luminosity of solo strings playing with perfect precision and intensity. Equally intense was the physicality of Osborne’s contribution in ‘Turangalîla 2’, taking a scythe to the notes and dashing them off with faultless technique. This was a blazing account, in which Karabits and Co captured Messiaen’s life-affirming vision with extraordinary finesse and dedication.