Entertainment Music

Saturday 24 February 2018

classical

philharmonia

orchestra

national concert hall, dublin

Formed in London in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, the Philharmonia Orchestra quickly established itself among Europe's leading symphonic ensembles and a star-studded list of principal conductors began with the legendary Otto Klemperer.

However the Philharmonia comes here under the baton of Paavo Järvi (right), principal conductor of L'Orchestre de Paris. His main work on tonight's programme is Dvorak's 9th Symphony, subtitled "From the New World".

This 'home thoughts from abroad' piece, completed during the composer's tenure as director of the National Academy of Music in New York, had its première there in 1893.

When in Iowa earlier that year, the Czech composer became fascinated with the indigenous songs of the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Show. And the group's drumming may well have been the influence behind Dvorak's startling timpani in the Symphony's Scherzo.

Brilliantly played with pointed attack by the Philharmonia's Andrew Smith, he and the orchestra certainly pack a powerful punch in this exciting score that dances with the joie de vivre of Bohemian Furiants.

The Symphony's Largo finds Maestro Järvi conveying the funereal melancholy suggested by its Afro/American spiritual inspiration. The Philharmonia's violins glide gracefully beneath the plaintive cantabile of its oboes and clarinets.

In the Finale, the emblazoned brass comes fully into its own. But, while retaining the overall perspective of the composer's colourful canvas, Järvi also brings all of Dvorak's intimate details to the fore.

The Orchestra's strings set Mozart's A Major Piano Concerto K 488 within its elegant framework. But there is emotive angst to.

Paul Lewis is the soloist in the gracious folds of the opening Allegro. Later he perfectly expresses the anxiousness in Mozart's very personal Adagio.

With the Finale launched by swirling bassoons, Lewis takes some time to dispel the Adagio's anguish, but his staunchly positive playing interacts with the orchestra's full-blooded stature.

The concert begins with Arvo Pärt's Fratres. Fellow Estonian Järvi directs the short piece on its processional path with dignified solemnity.

From an eerie beginning over a drone bass, the music gradually emerges from shadowy gloom to iridescent light and the Philharmonia's strings radiate ever-increasing lustre.

Irish Independent

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