Bournemouth SO’s Debussy Shimmers and Sparkles

27/10/2017

Debussy, Chopin, D’Indy: Louis Schwizgebel (piano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Fabien Gabel (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole, 25.10.2017 (IL)

Debussy – Symphonic Suite: Printemps; Three Symphonic Sketches: La Mer
Chopin – Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor
D’Indy – La forêt enchantée

This was a glorious concert delivered by a young conductor/pianist team.

Debussy died in March 1918, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s current season is marking the centenary of his death accordingly. This first concert opened with an early work and closed with one of Debussy’s most popular pieces.

Printemps in its original form, as a piano duet, was composed whilst Debussy was studying in Rome. Orchestrated by Henri Büsser in 1912, it included a piano part within the orchestra. Fabien Gabel’s sensual reading was beautifully considered. He realised all the shifting hues and dappled light of emerging spring in the lyrical opening movement, while the more animated second movement spoke of vitality, ardour and exuberance.

Gabel also delivered a thoughtful and highly evocative La Mer. The first two sketches: “From dawn to midday on the sea” and “Play of the waves” were richly redolent of sea-watery ebbs and swells under shifting light. The storm music of the third sketch was darkly formidable indeed.

The capacity audience roared approval at the end of this performance of the popular Chopin E minor piano concerto. Louis Schwizgebel’s reading was lucid, poised, poetic and exquisitely nuanced. He was especially expressive in the central Romanze: Larghetto. Chopin indicated that its inspiration was the recollection of a beloved landscape on a fine moonlit spring night.

D’Indy’s music is so often neglected. Seemingly, only his Symphony on a French Mountain Song has been occasionally performed, so it was refreshing to hear La forêt enchantée. Briefly, this is a tale of a group of knights who travel through a forest and are bewitched by female elves. Only their leader appears to be immune but even he is ultimately seduced. The music begins in haughty splendour as the knights proudly enter the woods. The music then broadens to a lyrical melody and the mood changes to one of sensual languor as the knights fall victim to elfin ardour.

A promising opening to the Bournemouth SO’s celebration of the Debussy centenary.

Ian Lace

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