Inspired Oboe Playing from François Leleux

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Telemann, Dorati, Silvestrini: François Leleux (oboe), Weston Gallery, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff, 20.10.2011 (GPu)

Telemann: Fantasie No.3
Telemann: Fantasie No.8
Dorati: La cigale et la fourmie (from Five Pieces for Oboe)


Hotel des roches noires a Troville (from Monet)
Boulevard des Capucines (from Monet)

A Cardiff visit by the outstanding French oboist François Leleux involves a concert tomorrow evening with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, when he will play the Oboe Concerto by Richard Strauss, conducted by François-Xavier Roth. Unfortunately a previous commitment means that I can’t get to that concert. I was particularly delighted, therefore, to be able to hear him play a short but impressive programme of pieces for unaccompanied oboe in the intimate surroundings of the Weston Gallery inside the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (where he was also scheduled to do a master class with students).

Leleux began his short programme with two of Telemann’s Fantasias for solo flute. His immense technical facility was immediately obvious but more importantly so was his interpretative energy and perception. He so completely enters the music that it is as if one is hearing an inspired improvisation; the sustaining of notes, the subtly gradated control of dynamics, the sharpness of rhythmic accent and, indeed, his confident use of silence, all make for compelling performances, in which the listener is drawn into Leleux’s musical (and physical) energy and commitment. The sense of dance was never too far away in the quicker movements of these two fantasias, and the slow movements had genuine grace; the second movement of No. 8 sustained a striking meditative power.

Antal Doráti’s La cigale et la fourmie (The Grasshopper and the Ant) is the first of his Cinq Piècesfor solo oboe, written for Heinz Holliger and premiered in 1980. It carries the subtitle ‘d’après Lafontaine’ and certainly there is something both of La Fontaine’s wit (and underlying morality) as well as of the poem’s dialogue form in Dorati’s musical interpretation. Leleux’s performance certainly registered all these elements, creating as it did the sense of two voices, two points of view, and in the subtlety of Leleux’s phrasing there was much that echoed the poet’s witty rhyming.

This brief – but thoroughly engaging – programme closed with two of Gilles Silvestrini’s Six Etudes for Oboe, each of them written in response to a painting by one of the French impressionists. These must surely be amongst the most technically demanding works in the oboe repertoire, full of highly complex runs and of demanding tonal effects. While not especially profound, Silvestrini’s music has sparkle and inventiveness and could scarcely have a more persuasive advocate than Leleux, whose playing of these etudes created admiring smiles throughout the audience.

After hearing this recital I am particularly sorry to be missing tomorrow’s concert.

Glyn Pursglove