Bach cut with Mendelssohn: a bit like painting over early artworks

Adulterating Bach with Mendelssohn at a concert at the NCH was dreadfully misguided

Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 01:00

Gourlay’s gourme

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If Bell and his London orchestra were on the cool side, the opposite was the case when Andrew Gourlay conducted the RTÉ NSO on Friday. This was an evening of mostly high-impact music-making. Gourlay gloried in the colour and springing rhythms of Copland’s Billy the Kid Suite. Pianist Joanna MacGregor took a tigerish delight in the challenges of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and even delivered some of the syncopations from the perspective of popular rather than classical music. It’s a matter of which way you bend. The popular world likes to anticipate the beat

; the classical world likes to delay it.

It may have been a matter of too much of a good thing, but the in-your-face treatment of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Suite seemed tastelessly over the top, making the composer seem like someone going on and on long after he has made his point.

The blare of the Tchaikovsky did, however, serve to highlight Gourlay’s sensual sensitivity in Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye. He’s a conductor who can bring a special aura to a hush as well as an edge of ferocity to a climax. The evening looked and sounded like a real workout for the orchestra from a conductor I am sure we will be hearing a lot more of.

Aptly named Masterworks

Monica Huggett’s annual Masterworks series with the Irish Baroque Orchestra moved for the first time to Newman University Church on St Stephen’s Green on Monday. The church, once notoriously chilly, is now, courtesy of a new heating system, agreeably warm. And the sound, which can be a little muddy, and was rarely entirely satisfactory in the Orchestra of St Cecilia’s now sadly discontinued Haydn series, was as clear as I ha

ve ever heard it. The IBO positioned themselves as close as possible to the listeners in the pews, and the lighter sounds of the early instruments didn’t stir up too much unwanted swimminess.

This year’s series is called Concerti Bizzarri, and it offers works featuring unusual instruments and instrumental combinations: a concerto for oboe d’amore by Dittersdorf (written at a time when the instrument was already almost obsolete); a concerto by Telemann for flute, viola d’amore and oboe d’amore; and an overture by Telemann that calls for two oboes d’amore.

The evening’s music appeared to be governed by the pleasure principle. The combination of the three solo instruments in the Telemann, played by Julia Corry, Andreas Helm and Huw Daniel, was distinctive and utterly gorgeous, an effect once heard, never forgotten.

There are two more concerts in the series, featuring works by Vivaldi, JC Bach, Telemann and Christoph Graupner this evening, and Vivaldi, Telemann and Johann Ludwig Bach on Friday. The starting time is 7.30pm each night.

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