The first three works in this concert were all by French composers. The orchestra demonstrated its ability in interpreting the various moods.
‘Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un faune’ by Claude Debussy was mostly serene and luxurious, foregrounding the woodwind and including a harp.
It was followed by Maurice Ravel’s challenging piano concerto in G major. Soloist Riyad Nicolas performed with sensitivity and power, ably supported by the orchestra. The piece opens suddenly, building to a “follow that” theme with the brass. The piano enters meditatively, and a jazzy feel emerges. The mood develops to raucous, then eerie. The second movement is more peaceful. The piano appears to be floating above the agitation of the first movement, and the cor anglais takes over to a continuing waltz rhythm. The last movement is busy, with the piano chasing up and down the scale, and the piece ends with a drumbeat, as suddenly as it begun.
Hector Berlioz’ ‘Hungarian March’, part of his ‘Damnation of Faust’ used a theme by Janos Bihari commemorating Hungarian military leader Rakoczi – Berlioz was going to Hungary and was advised to use a Hungarian tune. He picked the theme up and ran with it and this stirring march was a success.
Amilcare Ponchielli’s melodious “Dance of the Hours” gives moods associated with times of day – the music starts with dawn and gets deeper as night advances, then celebrates the arrival of another day.
The orchestra then played Tchaikovsky’s concert suite from his ballet Swan Lake, followed by the finale of the ballet. The opening gives the feeling of the peaceful lake, and goes on to include the lively, rhythmic dance of the little swans, a long-term favourite of this reviewer. (If all the swans are enchanted maidens, where did the cygnets come from? But can you blame them?) Then there is the lovely violin melody of the lovers’ pas-de-deux. There are also the dances of candidates from various nations auditioning to be prince Siegfried’s fiancée.
The finale is intense and powerful, as the magician confronts the lovers, but in the end affirmative.