A not so brief encounter with the Moscow Philharmonic

Yuri Simonov/Moscow Philharmonic ****

The Anvil, Basingstoke, 23rd May 2017

What a difference a week makes. After last Thursday’s Pictures at an Exhibition where the Orchestre de Paris coated a pristine layer of French polish over Mussorgsky’s score, the Moscow Philharmonic delivered a far earthier gallery at The Anvil. With its wheedling trumpet in Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle, smouldering saxophone in The Old Castle, paintstripper brass glowering in Catacombs, here was an orchestra that had retained much of its distinctive Soviet sound. It was like stepping back inside an old Melodiya recording.

Yuri Simonov
© Ivan Smirnov

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Return to the harem: Marianne Crebassa seduces in Ravel’s Shéhérazade in Paris

Aladdin: Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse/Sokhiev *****

Philharmonie, Paris, 20th May 2017

With barely time for coffee and baklava after the Orchestre Pasdeloup’s Arabian matinee, I stepped boldly back into the harem. Scheherazade resumed her tales in the Philharmonie’s Mille et une Nuits festival with the story of Aladdin, courtesy of Carl Nielsen, assisted by the excellent Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse under its music director, Tugan Sokhiev. It was the only work directly related to any of the characters from The Arabian Nights, but the rest of the programme of perfumed sweetmeats positively drooled with eastern promise.

Marianne Crebassa, Tugan Sokhiev and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse
© Patrice Nin

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Nights in the Harem: Scheherazade spins her tales with the Orchestre Pasdeloup

Chatoiement Oriental: Orchestre Pasdeloup/Diakun ***

Philharmonie, Paris, 20th May 2017

Scheherazade had to spin her tales out for 1001 nights to earn a stay of execution from the Sultan Shahryar’s wicked decree that each new wife shall be killed the morning after their wedding. This weekend, she only needed to manage three nights at Paris’ Philharmonie, where music inspired by the Orient – The Arabian Nights especially – formed the basis of its Mille et une Nuits festival.

Geneviève Laurenceau
© Yvan Schawandascht

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Autumnal Strauss, then a bracing mountain trek with the Staatskapelle Dresden in Paris

Strauss: Staatskapelle Dresden/Thielemann ****

Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 19th May 2017

The steepest climb in Paris is probably the walk up to Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre – or at least it feels like it to my knees. Strauss’ Alpine Symphony is a more ambitious proposition, in which case having Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden as our guides is a shrewd move. Strauss dedicated his giant tone poem to the orchestra, and its current chief conductor is closely associated with the composer’s music. Between them, they know this terrain like the back of their hand. At the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, as part of a mini-European tour, the Alpine Symphony formed a bracing finale.

Renée Fleming
© Andrew Eccles/Decca

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From the Auvergne to St Petersburg: a travelogue with the Orchestre de Paris

Ravel, Canteloube, Mussorgsky: Orchestre de Paris/Hengelbrock ***

Philharmonie de Paris, 18th May 2017

How fluent is your Occitan? Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, his arrangement of folksongs from central France, are in the local language, not dissimilar to Catalan. They mostly concern the love lives of shepherds and shepherdesses, of which the most famous is the dreamy Baïlèro. Others are far less familiar. Great singers communicate meaning and sell a song whatever the language and Kate Lindsey does this superbly. Even without recourse to song texts and translations, it was perfectly clear what was happening in each of the seven selected for this performance with the Orchestre de Paris under Thomas Hengelbrock.

Kate Lindsey
© Rosetta Greek

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