Thursday, July 21, 2011

Proms 5&6 Reviews

Prom 5:
Messiaen: Les offrandes oubliées
Pascal Dusapin: Morning in Long Island - Concerto No. 1 for large orchestra (BBC co-commission with Radio France; UK Premiere)
Beethoven: Concerto in C major for Violin, Cello & Piano (Triple Concerto)
Renaud Capuçon (violin)
Gautier Capuçon (cello)
Frank Braley (piano)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Myung-Whun Chung (conductor)

Prom 6:
Weber: Oberon - overture
Brahms: Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello (Double Concerto)
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
Renaud Capuçon (violin)
Gautier Capuçon (cello)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Myung-Whun Chung (conductor)


There are things Myung-Whun Chung does so extraordinarily well that you're caught completely off-guard by the many moments when he seems bored to death.

If there's one thing Chung does better than any living conductor, it's Messiaen. Listening to him conduct Messiaen's Les offrandes oubliées, you wonder how people could ever fail to see the genius of Messiaen's music. No other conductor has ever made Messiaen sound so natural, so elegant, so beautiful. It was, simply, a stunning performance. Messiaen was still only 22 when he wrote the piece, and clearly under the influence of Honegger and Debussy. But the piece is so clearly indicative of the inimitable genius he would become that one can only marvel that people would be more intimidated by his music than they would by anything of Poulenc's.

After the high of the Messiaen, the more's the pity that the rest of the concert was so pedestrian. A dull, meandering piece by Pascal Dusapin and a flat, uninspired performance of Beethoven's Triple Concerto.

The next day we hear another concert full of see-saws. Beginning with a fleet, sharply defined performance performance of Weber's Overture to Oberon. And then an unforgettable, deeply personal reading of the Brahms Double Concerto by the Capucon brothers. The only problem with it is the orchestral accompaniment. While the Capucons are giving raw, vulnerable performances, Chung has the National Radio Philharmonic of France giving a high-calorie, smooth Brahms performance that sounds utterly without commitment. But then Chung comes back after intermission and delivers a sleek, virtuoso performance of The Rite of Spring. The performance is hardly the last word in depth, but one can't deny the beautiful shading of the quiet playing, or the athletic excitement of a good orchestra playing so precisely at top speed.

A total enigma that Chung.

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