LSO/Tilson Thomas Yuja Wang – Debussy, Ravel & Villa-Lobos

Images pour Orchestre [Gigues – Rondes de printemps – Ibéria]
Rapsodie espagnole
Piano Concerto in G
Chôros No.10 (Rasga o Coração)

Yuja Wang (piano)

London Symphony Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 25 June, 2009
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Michael Tilson ThomasThis collection of works was presented in an unsatisfactory order; better to have had a Ravel first half and let Debussy and Villa-Lobos share the second. Just as unsatisfying was Michael Tilson Thomas’s decision to play Debussy’s Images out of order, ending with ‘Ibéria’ (which should be played as the second piece, although Pierre Boulez has previously erred in this regard) which meant Spain came in a lump (despite an interval before Ravel’s piece).

Nevertheless, this was an excellent evening. ‘Gigues’ was atmospheric, evocative and incident-filled (if too brightly lit at times), an engrossing mix of sensuousness and impetus that also informed ‘Rondes de printemps’ but was not so disclosing of its enigmas and shadows. ‘Ibéria’ came off best, its outer sections exhilarating and biting, the middle one carefully detailed and swooning invitingly. After the break, Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole was even more impressive, the opening sultry, flowing expressively and raptly still, the more rhythmic and colourful parts vibrant and well-oiled in execution.

Yuja Wang. Photograph: yujawang.dreamhosters.comYuja Wang (a recent signing to Deutsche Grammophon) then showed for more Ravel – a brilliant if natural and unforced account of the G major Piano Concerto, appropriately brittle in the jazzy sections of the first movement and nicely expressive elsewhere in it (with exemplary trills and glissandos). The slow movement seemed a little too expansive yet touched the heart and the LSO’s wind- and string-playing was exquisite, the finale coruscating, Yang’s fleet fingers always making music. She’ll be back. Next Tuesday! Could be special.

The novelty of the evening was Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Chôros No.10 (which is due at this year’s Last Night of the Proms), a typically extravagant piece for all of its 10 minutes’ duration, fastidious in one sense, ink-wet in another (straight out of the jungle!). This kaleidoscopic work for large orchestra adds a choir (the London Symphony Chorus had been present throughout the concert) to intone a poem by Catullo Cearense, a primeval ritual, the singers strikingly unanimous in their rhythmic attack, the whole piece a multi-layered treat brought off with panache. And so to Granada for two concerts (a local singing group taking part in the Villa-Lobos) and then back to the Barbican for the 30 June!

  • LSO/MTT Yuja Wang Barbican Hall concert on 30 June – Ives, Prokofiev & Stravinsky
  • LSO
  • Barbican

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