Milhaud, Copland, Poulenc and Ibert at the QEH
hile the Royal Festival Hall is closed for two years for major refurbishment - including improving the acoustics - most of the major orchestras are appearing at the smaller Queen Elizabeth Hall. Though the stage will accommodate a full-sized orchestra, some of them are using the opportunity to perform works requiring smaller forces. Yesterday evening the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under Rumon Gamba, performed four chamber orchestra works, all drawn from music for the stage.
Darius Milhaud's La Creation du Monde (1923) draws its inspiration from jazz, and was composed for a ballet depicting an African creation legend. While Milhaud, like most composers of the period who were influenced by jazz, heard mostly the flattened thirds and sevenths he did also pick up the complex polyphony of early jazz, and some sections of the score are highly complex. The rather soft and warm acoustic of the QEH always tends to smear very detailed music (the Royal Festival Hall is much more detailed, though sometimes a bit hard), and as tends to happen when classically trained musicians play jazz-influenced music the fugal section sounded a bit blowsy. It would be interesting to hear the work played by jazz musicians in a dry acoustic. The small orchestra played with considerable verve - the lady with the drum kit was particularly good - and overall gave the work a lively performance.
Aaron Copland's suite from the ballet Appalachian Spring (1944) was played in the original chamber orchestra version: and Francis Poulenc's Aubade (1929), also a ballet score, was excellently played by the orchestra and the piano solist, Ana-Maria Vera.
Jacques Ibert's hilarious Divertissement is drawn from the incidental music for the play The Italian Straw Hat - now better known as a famous silent film and a somewhat less famous opera by Nino Rota. Usually one hears this played by a larger orchestra, and with the small string section some detail tended to get smothered, both by the wind instruments and the halls acoustic: but the work's wit and panache was very well presented. The furious final chase section - complete with a policeman's whistle, played by the tympanist - got a tremendous and well deserved ovation.
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Posted: Tue - June 20, 2006 at 09:24 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM