Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Adelaide Town Hall. 8 Jul 2017
Dedication is the fifth in the ASO’s Master Series for 2017, and it showcases Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Mendelssohn. If an exit poll was held, I am certain the audience would have voted overwhelmingly for Louis Lortie’s performance of Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.2 as the hands-down favorite of the evening.
French-Canadian Louis Lortie was at the height of his lyrical powers in this performance of the ever popular melodic piano concerto. The piano takes centre stage from the outset in this melodic work and all attention is rightly on the pianist. Fittingly, guest conductor Christoph König’s style is restrained so as to support the soloist and not allow the orchestra to dominate. Lortie’s execution of the dynamics of the bridging sections in the first movement is superb, and the exchanges between him and König at the humorous end of the second are a joy to behold. The whole performance has a lightness and freshness about it and neither Lortie nor König read more into the score than was there. At the end the audience erupts into generous applause.
So, to the bookends of the programme, which are overshadowed by the concerto.
Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin was written by Ravel as a memorial to friends who died in World War I. It is light and reflective and was originally a piece for solo piano, but has been arranged in various guises for full orchestra and smaller ensembles. In my humble opinion it works better in its original form, and the orchestrated version isn’t so satisfying or ‘masterful’ that the ASO should repeat it so soon after its last performance, which was barely ten months ago! As is often the case, the ASO’s woodwinds are sublime and oboist Celia Craig deserves to be singled out when the orchestra takes its bows. As in the Saint-Saëns, König gave the piece a light touch and doesn’t brood over the minor keys in which it is mostly written.
The ASO last performed Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 - the so-called Scottish Symphony - a little over four years ago. All four movements are played one after the other with almost no break between them. They all feature march rhythms and fanfares and there is an overall underlying intrepid moodiness until the almost joyous flourish of horns at the very end. Adrian Uren and co. are terrific! König lays bare the melodic palette of the symphony and allows the underlying sweetness of the motivic material to have its way. This is assisted by his placement of the double basses and French horns not in groups but in single sweeping ranks: the basses on his right, and the horns across the rear.
An enjoyable but uninspiring concert.
Ps: Dear ASO. Please don’t reschedule the Ravel or the Mendelssohn for some years. There is so much other music that you haven’t played yet.
When: 8 Jul 2017
Where: Adelaide Town Hall