A Franco-Russian Alliance and Playing Mischief with Beethoven

The Evening Standard (London, England), July 28, 2005 | Go to article overview

A Franco-Russian Alliance and Playing Mischief with Beethoven


Byline: NICK KIMBERLEY

PROMS 2005 CBSO/Sakari Oramo

Albert Hall

SAKARI ORAMO was still principal violinist with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra when he made his conducting debut in 1993, and occasionally he still conducts from the first violin's chair. Hearing the music from the inside, so to speak, must make for a more democratic relationship with his players; certainly the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra seems to enjoy working with him.

Oramo's programme was all about Franco-Russian crosscurrents. The slithering contrabassoon representing the Beast in Ravel's Mother Goose, for example, resurfaced later as the ghastly witch Baba Yaga in the same composer's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and there was a Mussorgsky allusion in Henri Dutilleux's epistolary song-cycle Correspondances, receiving its London premiere.

This proved as finely wrought as any of Dutilleux's orchestral pieces, from the jazzy plucked basses that set the opening Cosmic Dance in motion, to the mournful cello melody that began the final letter, "From Vincent to Theo" (Van Gogh, that is). Even if her enunciation was short on consonants, soprano Barbara Hannigan, singing from memory, seemed inside Dutilleux's recitative-like vocal lines, and, as in Ravel and Ravel-Mussorgsky, Oramo caught the tiny details without exaggeration.

DOUGLAS BOYD is another conductor who passed through the orchestral ranks. …

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