Les Siecles – an orchestra that I previously have seen on various occassion and truly enjoy listening to. So them playing a French programme had to go on my list of concerts to go to.It was at least as much fun to watch Francois-Xavier Roth conduction them… His body language and facial expressions are such a delight and no doubt is part why the orchestra delivers to such a level!
The evening started off with Saint-Saens ouverture to La Princesse Jaune. A lovely playful piece very much in keeping with the Japanese craze that swept over France at the time of its creation. Little melodic nods to this country far away gave the piece a lovely exotic feel yet it was undeniably French!
Second on the programme was an excerpt from Delibes Lakme. Another rather exotic piece! With a few bit more unusal percussion instruments in use for this particular ballet music the journey through the world continued. The little oriental flourishes were so beautiful and brought the whole thing alive – needless to say that Roth was sporting the one or other exotic move himself!
Cedric Thiberghien joined the orchestra for a rendition of Saint-Saens 5th Piano Concerto “Egyptian”. Not a piece that I had every heard before but had no doubt that the combination of a period orchestra, a French conductor and solist playing a Frenchmans concerto would deliver the best possible experience. And boy, they did not disappoint! The sweeping melodies were executed with military precision and the harmonies just kept taking you with them… it was such a joy to listen and also to watch all musicians on stage! Absolute delight! As the title suggests there were of course some little rather exotic melodies within the piece and they just spiced the concert to perfection! Thiberghien – who just about looks old enough to legally buy alcohol was the perfect choice for the soloist. Him and the orchestra had such a connection!
The second half started with Francks Les Djinns – together with Thiberghien again. Cesar Franck is a composer that I have not quite warmed to yet so I really didn’t quite know what to expect. Keeping with the oriental theme we were taken on yet another magic carpet ride. This symphonic poem based on a poem by Victor Hugo was a beautifully light and mysterious piece of music. Certainly has taken my suspicions from Franck and I am willing to listen to more of his music.
Another rather interesting piece of music was next on the programme – Namouna by Eduard Lalo. Written in 1881/1882 the ballet was quite groundbreaking for its time and set the tone for what was to come in French music. Yet another beautiful performance by the orchestra! Colouring the hall with mesmerising sounds.
The Bacchanal from Samson and Delilah concluded the evening. This quite familar yet exotic and oriental piece was a fitting finish to such an interesting evening. The clarity in the play of the musicians was outstanding.
And if you thought that was it – the orchestra pulled a very unusual encore out the bag – an arrangement of Get Lucky – little surreal but the seemingly had a lot of fun playing it!