This concert from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Charles Dutoit, featured pieces spanning nearly two hundred years, all of them using different sections of the orchestra to good effect. In the case of the opening piece, Debussy’s Petite suite (originally 1886-9), it was interesting to see how Henri Büsser’s orchestrated version (1907) hands different lines to the various sections of the orchestra. The way in which, for example, the opening theme of the ‘Cortège’ movement is played out on several wind instruments before the second syncopated theme sees the violins dominate, demonstrates astute understanding of how an orchestra can be utilised to greatest effect, and the RPO rendered this beautiful piece in suitably smooth fashion.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K482 is one of several pieces written in 1785-6 demonstrating the composer’s growing sophistication in writing for wind, as he treats the section as an entity in its own right. The various orchestral sections are also given important roles of their own in the sense that in the Allegro they lay out a theme that is then only referenced rather than repeated by the piano when it enters.Soloist Elisabeth Leonskaja brought a combination of delicacy and clarity to her playing, but it was the fact that she constantly adjusted the balance between these two elements, as befitting the needs of the piece, that made her playing sublime, and her rendering of the (Britten) cadenzas was particularly impressive. Some people may have wished for a little more exuberance from the orchestra, and slightly more heft behind the crescendos in the third movement, but the sense of control exerted over the entire concerto certainly made for a revealing and moving performance.
Control was also an important feature of the performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141 (1971). The composer’s final symphony intriguingly mixes playfulness with gravitas, and a conductor requires a variety of attributes in order to bring out each of the work’s disparate strands while also creating a coherent whole. It therefore proved an excellent vehicle to demonstrate Dutoit’s natural aptitude for combining smoothness with clarity, and sumptuousness with understatement, as the RPO embraced the distorted references to Guillaume Tell as much as the brass motifs and timpani rhythms derived from Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This Prom will be available on BBC Radio 3 iPlayer for thirty days.
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