BBC SO/Bringuier, Barbican, London
Monday 25 February 2008
We'll be hearing a great deal more about the French conductor Lionel Bringuier, if the evidence of his UK concert-hall debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra is anything to go by.
On paper, the world premiere of a double concerto by the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, written for that golden couple, violinist Lisa Batiashvili and oboist François Leleux, was the interest. But who could have thought that this young conductor, barely in his twenties, would have galvanised the BBCSO into playing of such energy, clarity and commitment?
The programme was a clever one: two piano works orchestrated by Ravel but only one his own composition. From the very beginning of Ravel's "Alborada del gracioso" taken from his Miroirs, it was plain from the assertive pizzicato, the rhythmic crispness, the brightness of sound, the exquisite detail and, above all, the balance of sound, that here was a conductor for whom the players wanted to excel – the unanimity of bouncing bows was extraordinary! Bringuier has easy physical gestures, limber and musical, keeping extravagance only for those moments that require it.
Kancheli, a contemporary of Arvo Pärt, is a composer we rarely hear in the concert hall. I always assumed that his music would be taken up by the wider public for its spirituality, tonalism and clarity of form. Seven symphonies form a backbone in his output alongside various concertos, not least the haunting Mourned by the Wind, written for Yuri Bashmet.
"Broken Chant" breaks, to an extent, Kancheli's love of quiet interrupted by terrific crashes of sound. Here, quiet leads to crescendo, broken off by silence. It spells two moods, one halting, intense and melancholic, juxtaposed with nostalgic "cocktail" music, sometimes of significant slushiness. Leleux has a sound and colouring that even eclipses the magnificence of his wife.
It was hard to imagine that Ravel's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition could also sound like a newly minted piece. Bringuier lifted years of grime off this masterpiece, the colours gleaming savage and serene, and the playing exemplary.
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