A celebration of the art of orchestration through music by Ravel, Canteloube and Strauss.

Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
March 16, 2015

This was a splendid concert. Titled Song and Dance, one could add ‘orchestration’; for the program was also a celebration of the art.

The orchestral sounds of French music are full of light and air and the orchestral skills of Ravel and Canteloube represent these qualities at their finest. This is clearly evident during Ravel’s Noble and Sentimental Waltzes. The skilful Joseph Canteloube’s remarkable arrangements of songs from the Auvergne region of France are another example. In Baïlèro, the shepherdess sings across the valley to her lover, the music floats high and the piano arpeggios fall like a distant waterfall. Both works give the woodwind soloists fine opportunities to display their skills, and they did.

Mezzo Daniela Mack hails from Argentina and is an accomplished performer. However I wanted more vocal colour in these songs and wider emotional range. We only have to listen to Natania Davrath’s sensational recordings from 1966 to hear how these songs should be sung. Davrath’s voice has a bit of dirt under the fingernails, which provides the earthiness needed in this material. Despite Mack’s moments of vocal insecurity, this was less of a problem in the De Falla songs. These spirited pieces were arranged by Luciano Berio, and he brought his finely honed skills to the orchestrations.

The SSO played brilliantly throughout, especially under the energetic young American, Ward Stare. Together they gave a sensational performance of Strauss’s Rosenkavalier waltzes to end the concert. The mood was catching; Stare conducted so enthusiastically that he almost waltzed off the platform. Again, we were treated to another sublime example of masterly orchestration.

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