The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is as pleasing watch as to listen to. Under the directorship of the renowned Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi since 2012, the orchestra is clearly flourishing. From start to finish, it was apparent that the orchestra were deeply enjoying their performance and this only improved the performance itself.

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande with Neeme Järvi and Boris Berezovsky © Jas Sansi
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande with Neeme Järvi and Boris Berezovsky
© Jas Sansi

Opening with fellow Estonian Arvo Pärt’s Silhouette: Hommage à Gustave Eiffel (2009), the orchestra successfully captured the cool elegance and dancing lightness of the piece. Silhouette is dedicated to Paavo Järvi, Neeme’s son, who so impressed Pärt with his interpretations of his works that he was inspired to compose a new piece for him. Using the blueprints and illustrations of Gustave Eiffel’s iconic structure as a source to gain insight into the “sober rationality” of “Eiffel’s artistic vision” (in Pärt’s own words), Pärt constructed Silhouette similarly, with transparency and stasis being key to its architecture. A talented percussion section did justice to this charming piece, which, although short, has much to offer.

The arresting opening chords of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor signalled a change in mood, and began even before the applause welcoming soloist Boris Berezovsky to the stage ceased. Immediately captivating, the unassuming Berezovsky looks entirely natural at the piano and delivered an exceptional performance. Sensitive and flexible, Berezovsky flitted between the extravagant dramatism and dreamlike lyricism of the concerto with ease. Supported by an orchestra of responsive musicians, the rapport between soloist and orchestra was evident. A strong horn section and gifted principal flautist overshadowed the single hesitant entry by the orchestra, who, with the understated direction of Järvi, made this a very memorable performance.

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 6 in B minor, “Pathétique”, followed the interval. Written mere months before the composer’s suspected suicide, many have read into the Pathétique a sense of ominous hopelessness, viewing the symphony as Tchaikovsky’s last testament. The programme notes describe music “permeated by foreboding” and yet the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande managed to perform this piece in a way that highlights the contrast between the darker, more melancholy moments and bringing into relief the triumphant, dancing third movement. A beautifully executed bassoon solo opened a performance that went from strength to strength.

The evening culminated with a planned encore, which was perhaps an unusual decision. Following the “death” of the Pathétique was a bold move, but choosing Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten was the perfect choice, providing the concert with a rounded conclusion. All in all, a charming concert.

****1