The Lang Lang, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Staatskapelle Dresden concert was the finest I have heard in a long time

GermanyGermany Ravel, Debussy: Lang Lang (piano), Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden / Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (conductor). Semperoper, Dresden, 19.5.2024. (MC)

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden © Markenfotografie-

Ravel – Ma mère l’oye, Suite for orchestra; Piano Concerto in G major; Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No.2
Debussy La mer

This Sunday morning concert by the Staatskapelle Dresden was remarkable with performances of distinction given to four French masterworks of the repertoire. Outgoing Staatskapelle principal conductor Christian Thielemann who was to conduct this set of concerts withdrew through illness. In Thielemann’s absence stepping in was Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. As a result, two of the four planned works were changed. Debussy’s Ibéria was replaced by La mer and Ravel’s La valse was switched for Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No.2.

As one might expect the Staatskapelle Dresden are primarily associated with Austro-German romantic orchestral works. On the other hand, the Staatskapelle does have a tradition of performing French symphonic music and the orchestra have been quick to play new works from major French composers, hence the inclusion of this all-French programme in this 475th anniversary season.

In 1910 Ravel completed Ma mère l’oye (Mother Goose) for two pianos, a ravishing fairy-tale suite of five children’s pieces. A year later he orchestrated the Ma mère l’oye suite, as heard here, and soon after expanded the suite into a ballet score. With the graceful, balletic movement of her hands and arms Gražinytė-Tyla radiated assurance and the players responded with a majestic performance. In truth the melting beauty of the final movement Apothéose: Le Jardin féerique was quite simply a balm to the senses.

Pianist Lang Lang performs with the Staatskapelle Dresden © Markenfotografie

Next the piano sensation Lang Lang took his place at the piano stool for Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major completed in 1931. I have seen Lang Lang play live twice previously and he doesn’t just play the notes he gives a performance. And again, this evening he did just that, involving the listener in the performance. Ravel was noticeably influenced by popular music of the day, and I could hear American jazz and the music and spirit of Parisian revue and cabaret scene. Much admired is the slow movement and Lang Lang played with a beautiful intimacy and sincerity, and it felt as if time had stood still. A superb pianist Lang Lang communicated an agreeable performing personality that was imbued with humility.

It was with orchestral masterworks works L’Après-midi d’un faune, Nocturnes and La mer that Debussy established himself as a seminal composer of the twentieth century. Written in 1905, La mer is cast in three symphonic sketches titled From Dawn to Midday on the Sea, Play of the Waves and Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea it is an opulent score and a highly evocative impression of the sea that has become a classic of the impressionistic style. Such a stylish conductor Gražinytė-Tyla and the Staatskapelle were very much on the same page and communicated vibrant images of the sea, that ranged from the soothing movement of lapping waves to the most violent of storms.

Ravel provided the final work of the evening Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No.2. With a scenario based on the romantic tale by Greek author Longus, Ravel completed Daphnis et Chloé in 1912, a choreographic symphony scored for large orchestra and wordless chorus. It is best described as a ballet score created for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes who were enjoying immense success during their first Paris season. From the ballet Ravel arranged a pair of orchestral suites and Gražinytė-Tyla chose to conduct the more popular Suite No.2. In three sections the first Lever du jour a blissful evocation of daybreak, followed by Pantomime an arcadian setting and the final piece Danse Générale exciting and colourful. Gražinytė-Tyla wasn’t shy about using brisk tempi and broad dynamics, and all sections of the Staatskapelle excelled.

Performed by the Staatskapelle Dresden under Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla with soloist Lang Lang this was the finest concert I have heard in a long time, and the audience loved it too; it was something very special.

Michael Cookson

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