Friday 13 August 2010
Source: The Guardian
It was around the beginning of the second movement of Albert Roussel's Third Symphony that the playing of the BBC Symphony Orchestra – under the outstanding 23-year-old French conductor Lionel Bringuier, making his Prom debut – moved into top gear. From that point on, the orchestra's awareness of its own sound, collectively and individually, became heightened to an unusually compelling degree. The playing stayed on this exalted level until the end of the concert, which closed with Ravel's second Daphnis and Chloé suite.
In this (nearly) all French programme, the Roussel was the most unusual item. He has never quite been accepted as a great composer, nor has he acquired a cult following. Not really belonging to any larger grouping of composers, he remains difficult to place.
Yet there is an individuality and conviction to the symphony, written in 1929-30, that brings it close to greatness. Some of the writing would not be out of place in Prokofiev, and there are elements that suggest a direct relationship with neoclassicism. From its truculent first movement on through the moto perpetuo scherzo, to the buoyant finale, Bringuier and the players conveyed the spirit as well as the letter of the music with easy assurance.
The Daphnis suite, with its Amazon rainforest-like proliferation of vital and intricate ideas, was shaped with a certainty of direction that never compromised the music's inherent sensuousness. It provided a sensational climax to the evening.
The first half was, nevertheless, very good. Bringuier opened with Berlioz's vibrant Corsair overture, not perhaps immaculate in execution but suffused with a clear Mediterranean light. The Brazilian Nelson Freire was the soloist in Chopin's Second Piano Concerto, his pearly tone and liquid dexterity finely supported by conductor and orchestra.