Sunday 25 February 2018

Review: Basel sparkles in bombastic performance

Classical: Basel Symphony, National Concert Hall

The Basel Symphony Orchestra's US conductor Dennis Russell Davies.
The Basel Symphony Orchestra's US conductor Dennis Russell Davies.

Pat O'Kelly

The Basel Symphony Orchestra brings music from the early decades of the last century on its first visit to the National Concert Hall.

The main work is Holst's extravagant suite The Planets with Ravel's Piano Concerto making a delightful centrepiece. It is preceded by novelty - the surrealist ballet The Wedding at the Eiffel Tower with ten movements by five composers from the group known as Les Six.

Following its provocative Parisian première in 1921, the work was forgotten but here, under Basel's US conductor Dennis Russell Davies, it shows the visiting artists' potent vitality.

Occasionally bombastic, boisterous, witty and mock funereal, it displays the various sections of the Basel Symphony in sparkling colours through the pens of Auric, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc and Tailleferre.

German-Japanese soloist Alice Sara Ott is the bitingly articulate soloist in Ravel. Unassailable technique offers glittering effervescence but Ms Ott also catches the composer's lilting phrases beautifully.

The atmospheric slow movement has Basel's solo flute and cor anglais no less haunting while the exiting Finale is dismissed with captivating abandon. Soloist and orchestra are at one in refined elegance and dazzling panache.

The full weight of the BSO's ensemble comes into its own in The Planets with pulsating belligerence in the surging strength of Mars. Venus is serene and tranquil with solo violin, cello, flute and oboe the harbingers of peace.

Scurrying woodwind and harps charm Mercury while there is tripping jollity in Jupiter. Sonorous trombones form an imperial cortège in Saturn.

Thundering timpani and steady brass capture the magic of Uranus before swirling string mists waft Neptune into the spheres.

Impressive on all fronts.

Irish Independent

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