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Link: The NSO goes French

In today's Washington Post: NSO takes lush French turn, but soberly, by Anne Midgette.

By Anne Midgette  |  April 30, 2010; 6:33 AM ET
Categories:  Washington  
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Thanks very much for the review. I agree with much of it but thought I would add a few of my perceptions for the discussion. In general, I am ok with what "imbeciles call impressionism" as quoted of Debussy in the program notes, though I tend to favor Ravel over Debussy. So I did not come to this concert with high hopes and was rewarded with what I thought was the best Daphnis and Chloe I have heard in concert. Normally, I am a little bored with it, but the orchestra seemed to be together and taut and I ascribe this to Maestro Graf and his clear and precise conducting. There are times when I find myself wondering what the relationship is between the conductor's movements and the orchestra's response. Not last night. The Debussy "Images" for its part was elegant and the timbre of some of the orchestral flourishes were more than lush and beautiful. I did not recognize the first two movements and it must be that the restrictions of radio broadcast lead to the third section, "Iberia" being most frequently broadcast. If anything, I thought I heard sounds evocative of Scottish music in the opening "Rondes de printemps."

The Ravel piano concerto for the left hand was excellent as well. I always enjoy this piece and I did last night as well, but for some reason I experienced in addition a sense of sadness associated with the loss of Wittgenstein's right arm and the utter futility of the wars we end up fighting, just or no. One minor point and perhaps someone can help me here. The concerto ends with an orchestrial and piano rush ("brutal conclusion" in the concert notes) and I always thought the piano and orchestra ended simultaneously. But last night it seemed to me that the piano ended up about three notes sooner than the orchestra. Have I been missing something all these years?

The Connesson's very short piece for piano and orchestra, "The Shining One" co-commissioned by the NSO, was as enjoyable as Anne indicated and I was one of the audience "that was grateful that the contemporary piece turned out to be so inoffensive and tuneful." To call it inoffensive in this context is not dissing the piece. Much of contemporary music for me borders on offensive, often very loud with no or few discernible harmonies, no sense of direction, and no suggestion of its connection to any of my life's experiences other than, perhaps, a traffic jam on a very bad day. I too thought of the film-score comparison as I was listening to it but then thought that no, this was somehow different. It was certainly interesting and I thought for a moment the breakneck speed at the end was going to exhaust the orchestra and the pianist.

I hope Thibaudet and Graf return often.

Posted by: William Kirchhoff | May 1, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

@William--on the question of the ending of the Ravel LH concerto, the final high-note of the "rush" is orchestra only, the soloist having his/her last note at the end of the downward 7-note figure right before it. That said, I was also at Friday night's concert, and I was aware of several other places in the concerto where Thibaudet & orchestra were not together. Funny that I heard him play the same concerto last year with Phila Orchestra, and it had a very different vibe, much more together feeling. Anyway, I couldn't agree more with your assessment of "Daphnis"--one of the best I've heard in a long time, and the highlight of the evening.

Posted by: petworthlad | May 2, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

@petworthlad: Thanks! Guess I'll have to pay more attention or buy the recording and listen more carefully!

Posted by: William Kirchhoff | May 3, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I attended Saturday's concert and I believe the second part was more successful than the first. Indeed, in Images the orchestra seemed to be warming up (or perhaps it was me who was warming up, who knows?) But the Ravel - both of them - was marvelous.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | May 3, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

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