Monday 19 February 2018

Review: A buoyant and robust interpretation

Classical: Essential Classics, National Concert Hall

On song: Irish mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly
On song: Irish mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly

Pat O'Kelly

For the latest of his incursions into 'Essential Classics' with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, its conductor John Wilson turns to France for a potpourri of mainly popular bon bons and a few novelties thrown in for good measure.

Opting for music written between the 1880s and 1920s, he opens with Chabrier's ebullient rhapsody España. With emblazoned brass, the RTÉCO's playing is buoyant and robust in conveying the flamenco fire of the composer's sparkling orchestration.

Dukas's scherzo, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, weaves its hypnotic spell as it bubbles and spits with fermenting urgency. While controlling its hectic shenanigans, Maestro Wilson also allows the chemical havoc to have its way without losing any of the composer's magical instrumental brilliance.

Ravel has a double billing through his Valses nobles et sentimentales and Boléro. While the Waltzes began life as a piano work, in this homage to Schubert, Ravel re-crafted them for orchestra. The contrasted eight sections create their own imagery with swaying strings suggesting billowing chiffon in the swirling movement of Ravel's delicious scoring.

In the Boléro, Wilson ensures its repetitive side-drum ostinati rise imperceptively in their calculated crescendi. Besides, the RTÉCO's brass and woodwind toss Ravel's balletic melody from one to another with seamless expressiveness. The shrieking climax is reached with masterly precision.

In between these gems, mezzo Rachel Kelly introduces three of Canteloube's familiar Songs of the Auvergne and bravely offers Poulenc's rarely heard Airs chantés. In the Canteloube maybe Maestro Wilson might allow her more balanced prominence but, even so, her L'Antonèno shows her treading a musical path with positive certainty.

Rachel Kelly's spirited performance of the four Poulenc songs displays both the rich quality of her extensive range and the potential strength of her interpretative skills.

Irish Independent

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