A thunderous roar of applause booms around The Usher Hall. And simply keeps on going. It’s been an evening of Shostakovich and Ravel; from brooding and dramatic melodies to an almost polka lightness and a staggeringly dramatic croccendo. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has just demonstrated to a sell-out audience why they are often lauded as one of the world’s greatest orchestras. In a stupendous performance to an audience of over 2,000, this surely was one of this year’s festival highlights.
Under the expert guidance of Mariss Jansons, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is performing two dates in this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, and I was very glad to be experiencing one of them, thanks to the EIF.
01 as the RCO’s concert is billed as had two sections and three pieces. Shostakovich took the first half of the evening with his Symphony No 1 in F minor; followed after the interval by a guest appearance of Jean-Yves Thibaudet for Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, and rounded off by Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No 2.
As an interested bystander to classical music, my knowledge is in need of much more experience, however I doubt anybody could fail to be engaged and enthralled by the vivid display put on. Symphony No 1 is a moody, dramatic, comical and often joyful piece highlighting the violin, oboe and double base – with a particularly fun section on the clarinet described as a ‘toy-soldier march’.
The orchestra were joined on stage by the much-lauded Jean-Yves Thibaudet, with the Frenchman taking centre stage for a dazzling performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. The three-movement piece requires a deft touch on the ivories that few can probably manage and in parts bears – to my ears, at least – at least a passing resemblance to orchestral music of an early Hollywood classic, borrowing from somewhere nearing jazz but retaining a classical personality. Well deserving of the multiple rounds of applause it received.
Ending with another Ravel – Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No 2, which comes with its own story too long to tell here – there was relaxation and jubilant celebration. It begins with an audible representation of sun rise and climaxes with a dance-esque phase, which presumably comes at the end because the orchestra is exhausted afterwards.
Classical music both describes the world around it, using sound to recreate mood and colour; bringing the world to life but leaving you with a deep level of relaxation that is hard to recreate. These three works are an excellent example of this and of just how captivating the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra are, I left in awe and supreme jealousy of those who will see them this evening.