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Review: Philharmonia Orchestra - Stravinsky's The Firebird @ SDH

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  • Philharmonia Review 25 Feb 2015

Philharmonia Orchestra
Saint David's Hall
Friday 20th February 2015

My fellow writer and critic friend, Stormer007 [or SamuelPatterson now] is currently living it in up in Paris. For the time being, I will have to make do with the music from the City of Lights (I am intent on visiting). It's been a grand time, with the sheer perfection of Messiaen, played by Peter Hill and Benjamin Frith at Cardiff University. Here, the Philharmonia delivered a concert of fairy tale-inspired music.

The Mother Goose (suite) by Ravel is work of orchestral froth. Filled with great orchestration and some delightful music, it never really exceeds this aesthetic. The composer was such a child himself, originally writing the work for two children on piano. Esa-Pekka Salonen is a great conductor, paying ferociously throughout the evening. His rock star good looks and his smock both added up to his appeal as a great musician and composer.

His Piano Concerto in G was played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. With inspiration taken from jazz, blues, Spanish Basque music, Gershwin and more, it's a brief tour of a piece, with many satisfying elements to it. Aimard (a pupil of Messiaen) plays with many sturdy graces, brimming with confidence and great appreciation and respect of the music. The slow middle movement, Adagio assai is perhaps the best work Ravel ever wrote...

Leading to the finale, The Firebird by Stravinsky is the ballet that put his name on the map. Before the joyous, colourful vitality of Petrushka and the earthy, electrifying violence of The Rite of Spring, came this first Russian-inspired ballet premiering in Paris. This being the full ballet score (lasting around forty-five minutes) it is, I'm sad to say, quite boring (Debuss described it as being "not perfect"). Other than the glorious and uplifting ending, as layers of sound assemble, float and then demand regal ecstasy, it has little to offer. Artificial harmonics are here and there with little to grab the imagination. Out of these three famous ballets, The Rite and Petrushka are the double success story in my eyes.

After the main event, came the 30-minute recitals. After every concert in the International Series at St David's comes an informal concert to compliment the evening's music. With RWC Masters students, we got a fine French mix of songs by Duparc, Debussy, Ravel, Roussel and Hahn. All lovingly sung by each performer, who have the twinkle in their eyes for future successes. It's nice to slink into Level one after most people have gone home and you can stay for one last show of music. Hoping the concert will be some more Steve Reich, after the Colin Currie Group have played in May.

More French music! Merci!

Rating: 7/10

The City of Light: Paris - 1900-1950 festival continues until Friday 27th March at Cardiff University Concert Hall. Highlights include Messiaen's Harawi, an Explore Day, the Philarmonia Orchestra [see all Sprout articles here] and Debussy world premiers.

The Philharmonia Orchestra will perform Messiaen's Turangalila-Symphonie at the Royal Festival Hall (along with Debussy's Syrinx and La damoiselle elue) on Thursday 28th May 2015 and also at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris on Wednesday 27th May 2015.

Related Articles:

Related Podcast: Cultural Recap of 2014: (Review of Turangal's la-Symphonie)

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Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve

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