Thursday 18 January 2018

Review: Marking 250 years in real style

Classical: Bergen Philharmonic, National Concert Hall

Violinist Alina Ibragimova
Violinist Alina Ibragimova

Pat O'Kelly

As part of its 250th anniversary celebrations, the Bergen Philharmonic, under its US music director Andrew Litton, inaugurates the NCH's 2015/6 International Season with brilliant flair.

The orchestra's programme is adventurous in its main work - Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring; safe with Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto and unusual in its opener - Svendsen's Carnival in Paris.

I find this Norwegian hors d'oeuvre anticipating Gershwin's American in Paris and also recalling Berlioz in some of its more boisterous episodes. A romantic interlude maybe suggests amorous dalliance by the Seine.

Mendelssohn brings the sweet, but full-bodied, tone of Russian soloist Alina Ibragimova. Her playing is all one desires while Maestro Litton's tempi allows Mendelssohn's attractive writing and Ms Ibragimova's expressive interpretation to be perfectly balanced.

With an innate feeling for the music, her cantabile lines in the slow movement flow serenely before the ebullient aplomb of her effervescent Finale.

The Bergen Philharmonic shows its sterling mettle in Stravinsky's ballet. Opening with the woodwind's serpentine phrases slithering expectantly, when the sacrificial ritual gathers momentum, Litton's grasp of the intricate score ensures nothing is obscured in the barbaric cacophony.

The orchestra rises to Stravinsky's demands with unassailable virtuosity through its vibrant brass, manic percussion, penetrating woodwind and cutting strings. This is a performance with exciting edge.

A little Grieg is a soothing encore but part of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite returns to primeval savagery.

The BPO responds with compelling dynamism.

Irish Independent

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