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Ionarts-at-Large: The Oslo Philharmonic (No.2)

A week after the Albrecht-Hadland concert, Bertrand de Billy took the Filharmonie for a ride in Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony. There’s a certain brusque vigor with which Beethoven’s Symphonies are played these days, by orchestras large and small alike and the best recorded examples are Osmo Vänskä (BIS) and Paavo Järvi (RCA), respectively. It’s a trend few conductors buck (Christian Thielemann being one of the more notable exceptions) and de Billy (himself putting the finishing touches on a Beethoven cycle with the Vienna Radio Orchestra for OEHMS) is not one of them. This general and generally quickening approach to the old master was mediated by more than an average dose of elegance and a dash Viennese bonhomie. In the end it amounted to a fine in-concert experience, but hardly a memorable interpretation.

available at Amazon
L.v.Beethoven, Symphonies 7 & 8,
B.d.Billy / Vienna RSO
Oehms SACD
available at Amazon
J.Suk et al., Fairy Tale,
B.d.Billy / Vienna RSO
The François Devienne Eight Concerto for flute—Piccolo in this case—sounds like a Mozart knockoff, which is probably better than a Franz-Anton Hoffmeister knockoff. It’s a chirpy, fruity, utterly conventional little thing, perfectly lovely and utterly boring. Oslo Philharmonic flutist Andrew Cunningham’s tone had a good deal of shrillness to it—something that might just be inevitable with the instrument… though I rather think it’s a matter of lack of soloist opportunities for piccolists to hone that special subset of instrument skills that standing in front of an orchestra, rather than sitting at the back, demands.

Josef Suk’s Symphonic Suite Fairy Tale op.16 was the main course of the evening and it showed. Its lush and vigorous, atmospheric and chatty romanticism had the most attention of the evening lavished on it and the Philharmonic saved its finest sound for the generous, sumptuous, all embracing finale.

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