Saturday, 9 August 2014

French Musical Impressionism at le Festival de Lanaudière

I hate it when people arrive late at classical music concerts so I was really annoyed at myself when I missed the first piece at the concert by the OSM on Friday. A programme of Ravel and Debussy held great promise but in the event it was a mixed bag for me, saved by my discovery of a wonderful composition by Ravel.

We arrived in time for Debussy's La Mer - a piece I love and the OSM (with Nagano at the helm) didn't disappoint: it was evocative and thrilling in equal measure. It was followed by a piece that was new to me, Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, which I found intriguing. Impressionistic music like this needs to be heard several times to be appreciated and I resolved to seek out this piece again.

Then came Debussy's Clair de Lune, which is wonderful on a piano as he wrote it (and a piece my partner-in-life plays rather well) but in this transcription for orchestra the lyricism suffocated under layers of strings. It sounded alarmingly like a Henry Mancini production. There was a full moon over the amphitheatre and it might have blushed.

The evening's final piece divided the audience. Well it divided my partner-in-life and me anyway. She loved Ravel's La Valse, his impressions of a Viennese waltz. To me it started off whimsically, then became a smug little joke that went on about ten minutes too long. I won't be seeking out this one.

But I'm listening again now to Gaspard de la nuit on YouTube, in the original arrangement for piano. Yep, second time around it's even better. A discovery that was worth our mad rush through Friday evening's traffic.

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