All eyes in a packed GRCH were on Peter Oundjian, making his only appearance with the orchestra this Season before formally taking up the post of Music Director in autumn 2012. In a short introductory talk he came across as engaging, having an easy rapport with the audience.
Musically, he presented us with three Ms, two of which – Mackenzie and Martinu – are not exactly well known. Sir Alexander Mackenzie’s Benedictus of 1888 delivered everything that it threatened to – broad, smooth string lines full of nostalgia and redolent of Empire – caressed lovingly by Oundjian.
Martinu’s 6th Symphony, Fantaisies Symphoniques, of 1956 was a different proposition altogether. Here we entered a strange soundworld, the first movement seeming to grow out of an effect that was reminiscent of a bee trapped in a jar. Not unpleasant, quite intriguing. An air of threat was dispelled briefly by an intense violin solo. The cinematic second movement had the feel of a chase through a city at night, while the final movement was more lyrical and finally peaceful. Dvorak, Bartok, even American swing music, were all evoked in this fascinating piece, yet the composer retained his own individual voice. More Martinu, please!
The RSNO Chorus made a blistering contribution to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony earlier this year, so hopes were high for Mozart’s Requiem. Unfortunately these were not entirely fulfilled. Sheer numbers helped with the forceful Rex tremendae and Sanctus, but compromised clarity elsewhere, creating a fuzzy, indistinct sound, particularly in the fast-moving chorales. Much more successful were the soloists – Sarah-Jane Brandon (replacing an indisposed Lydia Teuscher), Jurgita Adamonyte, Benjamin Hulett and Matthew Rose. Their voices blended well to create a marvellously intimate atmosphere –particularly in the Tuba mirum which featured an especially sensitive trombone accompaniment – despite the house lights being left full on.
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