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Opening concert in the WCCB: Beethoven festival inaugurated

Opening concert in the WCCB : Beethoven festival inaugurated

The Beethoven festival has begun. During the opening night, the audience enjoyed the Orchestre Philharmonie de Radio France under Finnish conductor Mikko Franck.

Actually, the comparison between composers Maurice Ravel and Ludwig van Beethoven forbids itself. Their music is too different as is also their artistic nature. This was very noticeable in the two oeuvres which were played by the Orchestre Philharmonie de Radio France under Finnish conductor Mikko Franck during the brilliant opening concert of the Beethoven festival on Friday night in the sold out World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB).

Ravel’s „Le tombeau de Couperin“ and Beethovens fifth symphony are both influenced by fate, thus fitting perfectly into this year’s theme of the Beethoven festival: „Destiny“. But where Beethoven fights with boisterous energy to find a musical way through the night towards the light, Ravel meets his fate with wondrous gentle sounds. The one shines, the other sparkles.

In the suite originally composed for piano which Ravel transformed into a four-movement orchestra oeuvre, the Frenchman intones the grief over friends who did not return from the First World War. Yet, it was comforting to hear this evening that Ravel dealt with the grief very smoothly, neither depressed nor pathetic.

Franck conducted sometimes seated, sometimes standing. He, who has led the Parisien Orchestra since 2015, underlined the elegance and lightness of the music, let the sounds of the woodwind section and string instruments bubble during the prelude. It all sounded like a spring-like morning mood. The forlane then came across much livelier, even more so the final rigaudon. Only during the third movement, the menuet, were more melancholic sounds audible thanks to the beautifully played oboe.

Before Beethoven had his say, the orchestra and particularly the French pianist Betrand Chamayou enthused the audience with Camille Saint-Saëns’ piano concerto No 5, which was dubbed the „Egyptian“ due to its orientalisms and because it was written in Luxor. That Chamayou was almost addicted to the charm of the similarly conservative look back and the ingeniously virtuos music, was very noticeable in his intoxicating play.

The virtuoso passages he managed brilliantly in the phonetic refinements during the second movement. There was a lot of applause for the young French pianist, for which he thanked the audience with an encore in the shape of Ravel’s "Pavane pour une infante défunte“.

During Beethoven’s fifth symphony, which begins in the key of fate, c minor, the orchestra showed completely different qualities again than in the music of their fellow French men. The dramatic energy, with which Franck let the symphony start, was tremendously gripping: This is how destiny knocks on the door. And the musicians played on the edge of their seats so to speak, highly concentrated and with great passion. The contrast to this during the second movement was worked out convincingly by Franck, even though he kept the tempo at borderline speed.

The way the low strings presented the fugato during the third movement had real class. During the final moments the musicians let the c major shine in its full and bright glamour. There was great applause in the WCCB hall, which was followed by the magical pianissimo effect of the adorably played „Valse triste“ by Finnish composed Jean Sibelius.

It can easily be assumed that the people on the market square also liked the music - where the opening concert was broadcasted live on a big screen.

(Original text: Bernhard Hartmann, Translation: Mareike Graepel)