City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

RSNO The Firebird Concert Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 26 October 2009

Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Show Details
The Usher Hall
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Dutilleux, Symphony No1; Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No 4; Stravinsky, Firebird Suite (1919).
Stéphane Denève (conductor), Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Running time: 

Henri Dutilleux, born in 1916 in Angers, is one of France’s most important twentieth century composers. His Symphony No 1 was written in 1951. The full orchestra started the evening with its four mono-thematic movements.

In his introductory remarks Stéphane Denève explained how this gave a perfectly symmetrical structure. Bubbling with excitement he told us how, as a student in Paris, he had come across Dutilleux at a market stall carefully, very carefully, buying fish. He had gone on to meet this enchanting man several times since.

The music slowly emerged from a silence intoned by the double basses and built up towards a fast climax in the second movement, kept its momentum in the third and finally slowly faded out.

Dutilleux has described it as a transition between the real and imaginary worlds. It is a very special symphony and most appropriate for the fourth annual RSNO's Sir Alexander Gibson Memorial Concert which commemorate the life of their longest serving music director, with music to reflect Gibson's era.

After the interval the piano was centre stage for Leif Ove Andsnes, the distinguished Norwegian pianist, to play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 4.  The Concerto combined the composer’s Russian background with more than a hint of jazz, music which had come to influence him. It’s lighter and more sensitive than his earlier concertos.

It was fascinating to see conductor and pianist working together in a way not so often so evident, and enhanced a memorable performance. Stavinsky’s Firebird Suite (1919) is one of three shortened versions for orchestra alone of the music from The Firebird, the ballet he wrote in 1910.

It started with the violins and cellos soft melodic glissandi before the arrival of the Firebird and its Dance when the tempo increases.

Then the Dance of the Princesses and the Infernal Dance of King Kastchei and on to the gentle cradle song with the bassoon and muted strings and harp.

A horn began the Finale, then the orchestra joined in to the climax when Katschei’s victims are released and Prince Ivan won the hand of one of the beautiful princesses.  

Event: Friday 23 October 2009 7.30 pm, RSNO most Friday nights throughout the winter. £5 for students, Under 16’s free.