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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 10, 2008 @ 10:18 am

    Reviews: Kempf, RTÉ NSO/Valade

    Fiona McCann

    Henri Dutilleux — Métaboles. Ravel — Piano Concerto in G. Franck — Symphony in D minor.

    Henri Dutilleux’s Métaboles , commissioned for the 40th anniversary of the Cleveland Orchestra and premiered under George Szell in January 1965, has kept a very respectable presence both on disc and in the concert hall. Its return is like the arrival of an old friend who always has something new to say.

    Dutilleux, who turned 90 two years ago, is a fastidious craftsman, and the polished detail of his orchestration is always a pleasure.

    What was in his mind in writing Métaboles , he has said, was “the mysterious, fascinating world of everlasting change”.

    That change is carried through not only with a sure sense of organic development but also with a satisfying ultimate resolution.

    Pierre-André Valade’s performance with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra on Friday was sure-footed in pacing though not always as tidy in detail as one would have wished.

    Valade took a fairly direct approach to César Franck’s symphony in D minor, a work that treads a dangerously fine line between the hypnotic focus of an orator who knows how to stay focused on the essential message and the repetitive emphasis of a speaker who doesn’t know how to get meaningfully beyond the core point.

    Valade’s clear-headedness did not fully avoid an effect of going around in circles, and the music-making was hampered by a lack of dynamic variety in climaxes, which effectively created a ceiling above which the music could not rise.

    The high point of this performance was the finely taken cor anglais solo in the second movement.

    Freddy Kempf was the agreeably energised soloist in Ravel’s piano concerto in G. He relished the music’s jazzy snap and bluesy inflections, and generated a gorgeously calm raptness for the long solo that opens the slow movement. MICHAEL DERVAN

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