United Kingdom Weber, Brahms, Saint-Saëns: Louis Lortie (piano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Yan Pascal Tortelier (conductor), The Lighthouse, Poole, 7/10/15 (IL)
Weber – Euryanthe – Overture
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor
Saint-Saëns – Symphony No. 3 in C minor ‘Organ’
This concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
I never cease to be astounded by the immense power Brahms evinces from a relatively small orchestra for the massive opening movement his epic Piano Concerto No. 1. The inspiration never flags through its 20+ minutes; just think, for instance, of that extraordinarily fresh dramatic twist Brahms bestows on his coda. The violence and menace of those frequently heard ferocious stabbing chords was caught mightily by Louis Lortie reminding me of treasured past classic recorded readings by the likes of Clifford Curzon and Emil Gilels. Tortelier responds with equal intensity although I thought that the quieter, more lyrical section tended to droop a little. By contrast, Lortie reflected spiritually and poetically on the divine music that is the quieter more introspective Adagio; and then rejoiced in the bright vigorous outpourings of the Rondo Finale and rose to its virtuoso challenges with élan.
I have to admit that I was not looking forward to the Saint-Saëns’ ‘Organ’ Symphony. It seems to have appeared too often in concert programmes to encourage potential bookings. There are so many more of this composer’s works to merit inclusion – the brilliant Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, for instance. Yet as it turned out, Tortelier’s reading of the ‘Organ’ Symphony won me over completely. To my ears, it somehow had a particularly French-sounding nuance and rubato that was most attractive. I particularly liked the Bournemouth strings’ playing in the beautiful Poco Adagio section with its multi-part writing for the violins and the lovely pizzicatos. The more exciting second part of the symphony brought out the organ in exciting full swell with the Bournemouth brass and the whole orchestra playing enthusiastically for all they were worth. The audience responded very enthusiastically.
The concert also included, as a warm-up, the brief and relatively pleasing Weber overture.