Orion [UK Premiere]
Piano Concerto in G
The Love for Three Oranges – Symphonic Suite, Op.33b
Musorgsky, orch. Ravel
Pictures at an Exhibition
Martha Argerich (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 30 August, 2009
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
Charles Dutoit conducted the premiere of Claude Vivier’s Orion in 1979. It is clearly a piece close to his heart. Vevier was murdered aged 34 in 1983. The music itself is a patchwork of ideas, and is scored for plenty of percussion along with standard orchestral forces. Opening with secure, plangent trumpets, the many ideas are undeveloped, and are tantalising. Amongst some dancing rhythms could be heard influences from the Prelude to Wagner’s “Das Rheingold”. Dutoit had fun with the dancing moments, gyrating on the podium, and what sounded like an African tribal cry pierced the air with arresting effect.
Martha Argerich was to have played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.1 in addition to Ravel’s G major, but illness prevented her from preparing it. Argerich’s effortless technique produced an account that was imbued with musicality, and was compelling from first note to last. The slow movement was ravishing, its beauty disarming. The outer movements found orchestra and soloist as one. Bucolic brass calls were like interruptions disturbing mermaids (the piano) at play, and beauty was further evident in the harp and piano duet. Argerich’s playing displayed her customary panache, brilliance and assurance – not to say that her performances are predictable – and this continued with her encore, a Sonata (in D minor, Kk141) by Domenico Scarlatti.
The Suite from Prokofiev’s zany opera “The Love for Three Oranges” replaced the ‘dropped’ concerto and showed the RPO and its Chief Conductor at one with such theatrical music. The surreal scenario was brought out by some quite thrilling playing and the famous ‘March’ had a toe-tapping quality, the ‘Prince and Princess’ offering calm repose before the exhilarating ‘Flight’.
Another Dutoit calling-card ended the Prom: Ravel’s ever-fresh and superlative orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. A committed performance with plenty of stand-out solo performances from the RPO, trumpets, especially, were superb, the solo in ‘Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuÿle’ devilishly sarcastic. The final two canvases contrasted the visceral and determined with the glorious and ecstatic; an uplifting end to an evening of superb musicianship.