Performer: Salonen, Esa-Pekka
Salle Pleyel, 14 March
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; Esa-Pekka Salonen; Choeur de Radio France; Matthias Brauer; MDR Leipzig Radio Choir; Denis Comtet
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My big night out this week was spent at the New York Philharmonic’s Tuesday evening concert, surely the case for most other 23-year-olds. (I kid, and yet over the past couple of years I have noticed a decided increase in young faces at Avery Fisher Hall.) I had intended to sit anonymously in the audience and get swept into the music like a leaf in the autumn wind.
If it was a little strange that Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 30th anniversary with the Philharmonia was celebrated with a traditional, unadventurous Sunday matinée programme which did little to challenge its audience, at least the quality of the performance made it clear why this conductor is so well loved and respected.
In one of several (pretty outrageous) notes to conductors in the score of his Roméo et Juliette, Berlioz states that “the average listener has no imagination” and, as a result of this, the sixth movement of the work should be cut in 99 per cent of performances.
A night drawn mostly from a gentler range of sounds, some more familiar, some stranger. Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra London brought classics from Debussy and Ravel to the Philharmonie in Berlin, and paired them with two works by Lutosławski: the intricate and incredible Third Symphony, and Les espaces du sommeil, something between a monodrama and a song accompanied by orchestr
The most memorable thing about this concert for me was the sheer glory of the Philharmonia’s playing. Whether it was in the winning, sprightly Mozart overture, or in all the glinting colours of Peter Eötvös’ new work, or in the full and rich late-Romantic orchestral tones of the Bruckner, these musicians, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, were magnificent.