There was a completely full house for this concert by Myung-Whun Chung and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Paris based ensemble of which he has been Music Director since 2000. The opening account of the Overture from Webers Oberon demonstrated the very high level of musicianship that the conductor-orchestra partnership is currently delivering, with an exquisite account of the horn solo and a similarly impressive performance from solo clarinet, not to mention the airy and expressive violins. Chung brought a firm rhythmic drive the main allegro, and although some of the incisiveness of the performance was muted by the halls expansive acoustic, the closing section of the overture was suitably buoyant.
Chung was joined by the brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuon for the next work, Brahmss Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello. The concerto, Brahmss final orchestral composition, was partly written as a peace offering to the violinist Joseph Joachim, from whom Brahms had earlier become estranged, and the writing for the two main instruments is strongly suggestive of a dialogue. This aspect of the work was beautifully projected by the brothers, the gentle eloquence of Renauds violin ideally contrasted with the warm sonority of Gautiers cello. Chung provided a sensitive accompaniment, although at times, especially in the finale, the orchestral performance lacked sufficient zest and incisiveness.
The Capuons followed up their impressive achievement in the concerto with an encore in the form of Halvorsens arrangement for violin and cello of the Passacaglia from Handels Harpsichord Concerto in G minor.
Stravinskys The Rite of Spring provided a further demonstration of the orchestras refinement and polish. Conducting from memory, as he had the Weber and Brahms works, Chungs control of phrasing and sonority highlighted elements of the score not always apparent in other performances. A number of passages evoked the sort of colour normally associated with Stravinskys earlier Firebird, while the introduction to Part 2 communicated the sense of awe that makes Chungs Messiaen performances so compelling. However, some of the works raw power was held back in the process, with a lack of visceral excitement in key passages and the final Sacrificial Dance failing to provide the terrifying conclusion that it ought to be.
The Overture from Bizets Carmen was provided as an encore and was delivered with considerable panache.