Birmingham May 2013

Review from Bachtrack

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.

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 constructedSilhouette 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.



UK May 2013 

Review from Words and Music 

Ooh Aah Canton

 To the Royal Festival Hall for the visit of the newly resplendent Orchestre de la Suisse Romande which for the last fifty years has lived off the reputation of its first fifty years under Ernest Ansermet. Now with the centenary approaching, its French-Swiss friends are determined no longer to dwell on the past, but to create a new outfit worthy of the future. The present conductor Neeme Jaervi  has nurtured a fit, youngish ensemble with warmth in its strings, seduction in its woodwind and fire in its brass. Yet its percussionists were first to show as their bowed gongs sent out straight arrow-shafts of tone at the bitter beginning of Arvo Paert’s 2010 work Silhouette: Hommage a Gustave Eiffel, the composer’s countryman conducting with slow-motion gestures. He made Eiffel’s steel girders resonate. A sturdy pizzicato waltz followed, the contrast of so modern a work referencing so dated a form enchanting the capacity crowd. Accelerating hotly, the plucking melts into a molten steel legato and climaxes at a sudden silence like the emptiness that follows the completion of a structure, a symphony, novel or tower.
The towering Russian pianist Boris Berezovsky, dubbed ‘Grizzly’ in the Swiss press, hunched over the Steinway and made no grand flourish at the top-to-bottom opening of Grieg’s Piano Concerto. His was a matter-of-fact statement that rescued the work from the burden of its history just as the orchestra itself is trying to do. His lightness brought out the dance in the first movement, his crushed-note chords leaping with gnomic gaiety into a cadenza of intense introspection. The Adagio wafted off the stage like a vapour, the trilling piano afloat on a cloud of soft strings, responding to the horn’s golden come-hither. But it is the flute who enchants the fickle pianist in the finale as Berezovsky showed, looking and leaning towards the source of the silver seduction, his fingers finding the excited, enamoured theme for themselves.

The sepulchral bassoon’s lovelorn complaint at the start of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique wins over the entire orchestra in the first movement as each section varies the motif to so many yearning pleas. A second theme inflates the work like a bouncy castle, plump and inviting, the detail clear in the purity of the clarinet’s whisper. The most elegant five-four rhythm in music swirls the burning strings into a revolving dance and Jaervi confronts the cellos with his arms clasped before him like a master demonstrating the devotion of eager performing dogs. With pounding unanimity they played the triumphant third movement like a finale so that the tragedy of the fourth hit home like the unsuspected return of dark clouds. One felt the composer’s anguish through the medium, 120 years on, of this superlative band, proudly determined no longer to live in the shadow of its illustrious past, but to honour that background by creating its own reputation. Ansermet’s huge repertoire focused on works of his own French culture – Debussy, Ravel  and the Parisian Stravinsky. Jaervi does likewise with fellow Estonian Paert, whose profoundly haunting Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten he conducted as a host-flattering encore.