Wednesday 21 February 2018

Stravinsky in Focus at National Concert Hall review: 'A towering tribute to a musical genius'

RTE Concert Orchestra
RTE Concert Orchestra

Pat O'Kelly

Showing adventurous enterprise, RTÉ draws all its musicians together for Stravinsky in Focus - a two-concert collection of the composer’s output written mainly between the two World Wars.

The diverse event features both RTÉ Orchestras, its Philharmonic Choir and Contempo Quartet with several soloists and Chamber Choir Ireland.

Under Aleksander Marcović, the NSO’s programme includes the somewhat austere Symphony of Psalms, but with the Philharmonic unfailingly assured, and the more emboldened Symphony in Three Movements. The latter finds the orchestra responding to Maestro Marcović’s precise direction with bristling aplomb.

The Concert Orchestra highlights the jazzy Concerto for Piano and Winds with Hugh Tinney in exuberant form and the band no less energetic.

The ballet Pulcinella seems anaemic without accompanying dance but conductor Pierre-André Valade ensures the Baroque capers of Pergolesi’s base are nicely spiced with Stravinsky’s seasoning. Máire Flavin, Robin Tritschler and John Molloy add vocal élan.

With idiosyncratic forces embracing four pianos, four solo voices, chorus and percussion, the ballet Les Noces provides another exhilarating experience. CCI’s Paul Hillier chooses tempi that allows the music natural breath and expression.

These Russian wedding tableaux sparkle as singers and instrumentalists convey the ritualistic clamour the music evokes. Else Torp, Iris Oja, Mati Turi, William Gaunt and the choir are unassailable as pianists Lance Coburn, Dearbhla Brosnan, Dearbhla Collins and Conor Linehan clang to the incisive beat of the RIAM’s Percussion Group.

Elsewhere the Wind Octet and Ragtime (NSO), with its acerbic cimbalom, are delightfully eccentric while the Three Pieces and Concertino for String Quartet find Contempo in particularly trenchant form.

Overall, a towering tribute to a musical genius.

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