Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons review – too controlled

Usher Hall, Edinburgh
The great Dutch ensemble was as responsive as always, but needed more jolt and frenzy in its Ravel and Shostakovich

Amsterdam's great orchestra is unquestionably one of the world's finest. Everything it does sounds expensive. There is such depth to its string sound, such richness to its winds, such a purr to its ensemble engine when it gets going. The players are fantastically responsive to their revered chief conductor, Mariss Jansons, collectively poised at the end of his baton. Jansons is standing down at the end of next season for health reasons; whoever follows him has enormous shoes to fill.

It feels slightly churlish to find fault with such magnificent playing, but there were several moments during the first of the Concertgebouw's concerts at the Edinburgh international festival when the orchestra's plushness, Jansons' weighty interpretative choices and the spry character of the music didn't quite line up. The programme opened with Shostakovich's First Symphony. The slow movement was the dark heart of the work, solemn and hushed with tremendous gravitas. But the outer movements needed more jolt between the skittish, sardonic and frankly crass and the moments of quiet solace. The Concertgebouw handled the latter superbly but never clinched the spirit of the former. The sound was always polished; Jansons' pacing was steady and sometimes just slow.

The French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, never usually one for understatement, gave an affectionate and surprisingly demure account of Ravel's G major Piano Concerto. The dialogue between him and the orchestra didn't always flow, but he kept his flamboyant spark subtle and his dynamics reined in; his articulation of the Adagio's beautiful melody was simple and tender.

Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé (Second Suite) was the orchestra's showpiece. Here Jansons' broad sweep was splendid in Lever du Jour, the crest of the wave glittering and magisterial. Yet the Danse Générale remained controlled, and didn't whip up the irrepressible frenzy that a truly thrilling performance of it should.

Contributor

Kate Molleson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons – review

Continuing his Bruckner series, Mariss Jansons conducted a high-quality performance of the Seventh Symphony, but it was the Ninth Symphony that impressed the most, writes Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

06, Apr, 2014 @4:50 PM

Article image
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons review – 'Immaculately crafted'

Luminous textures, warm melodies and spell-binding climaxes create a transformative journey, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

04, Apr, 2014 @3:10 PM

RCO/Jansons | Edinburgh classical review
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
The Royal Concertgebouw gave a glittering performance worthy of one of the two greatest orchestras in the world, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

31, Aug, 2010 @9:00 PM

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Jansons, Barbican, London

Barbican, London

Erica Jeal

17, Jun, 2005 @6:32 PM

Article image
CD: Strauss: Ein Heldenleben

(RCO Live)

Andrew Clements

21, Jan, 2005 @1:03 AM

Article image
Mariss Jansons announces Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra departure
The conductor's 10-year reign as chief of the world-renowned Amsterdam orchestra will end after 2014-15 season, writes Imogen Tilden

Imogen Tilden

22, Apr, 2014 @10:12 AM

Classical review: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jansons, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London: The Bavarians are a very different ensemble, with a lighter sound than their Dutch colleagues, says Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

30, Mar, 2009 @11:28 PM

CD: Dvorak, Symphony No 9

(RCO Live)

Andrew Clements

05, Nov, 2004 @1:21 AM

Article image
CD: Beethoven: Symphony No 2; Brahms: Symphony No 2

(RCO Live)

Andrew Clements

17, Jun, 2005 @12:59 AM

Article image
CD: Shostakovich: Symphony No 13, 'Babi Yar'

(EMI)

TIm Ashley

12, Aug, 2005 @12:21 AM