Edinburgh International Festival Musical Revues: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra | Consort of Dunedin
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Usher Hall *****
The dance-inspired music is an overly tame description for the pounding rhythms and explosion of rich textures that dominate the works that close this fabulous program from the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Their conductor Edward Gardner is a master at fine-tuning large-scale forces to paint the most ravishing sonic images. In Ravel’s La Valse, the orchestra swept away the waltz melodies in a dizzying maelstrom that eventually fragmented under its own weight. Ravel might have called the work a choreographic poem for orchestra, but as this immaculate and sumptuous reading demonstrates, it is actually film music in disguise.
Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances have similar aspirations, starting with all the bluster of a Hollywood western for sumo wrestlers. Bass clarinets and contrabassoons rumbled like hungry coyotes, creating an edgy undercurrent to the insistent rhythms of the strings. Gardner’s pacing was perfect as he led the piece to its intoxicating climax.
In between, there was a lot of poetry in Víkingur Ólafsson’s pristine and understated rendition of Schumann’s Piano Concerto. There was much to appreciate in his fresh take on this repertoire classic, especially the close interactions with Gardner and the orchestra in the more intimate moments of the slow movement. Susan Nickalls
Consort of Dunedin, Queen’s Hall ****
It was basically a sweet affair. A magnificent tapestry of works mostly led by solo voices centered on that magical moment in European music, from the early 17th century, when the early Baroque transformed from the Renaissance. It featured a well-planned journey through time and style from Monteverdi to Buxtehude, its medium an intimate period combo of the Dunedin Consort, led by its associate director, tenor Nicholas Mulroy.
It opened with a soft and seductive instrumental toccata from Kapsberger, Elizabeth Kenny’s solo theorbo establishing a melodious tune of kindness that was to dominate the program. Other instrumental repertoires acted as breathing points in the proceedings – a sparkling toccata by Frescobaldi, a trio sonata by Buxtehude and the crystalline precision of harpsichordist John Butt in a Frescobaldi capriccio. But the heart of the presentation was in the vocal mix.
Mulroy led us from one musical treasure to another, from Monteverdi with the contrasting paces of his hushed Salve Regina and fiery Più Lieto Il Guardo, the languorous penance of O Misericordissime Jesu by Schütz, the gentleness of Caccini, to a Monteverdi much more loaded with exoticism. in sum Nigra. Then finally, Lagrime mie by Barbara Strozzi, emotionally extravagant, but ending perfectly in sublime tranquility. Ken Walton