Friday, April 01, 2022

National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, Ireland

Following this program last week,, Leonard Slatkin continued his latest visit to Dublin with a concert of four different works written in close proximity.

Darius Milhaud in La Création du monde (1923, Paris) takes a big subject – the biggest – and shrinks it to a jazz ensemble (including a drum-kit), music that can be mournful, with a sleazy tinge, and raucous and nippy, moods constantly changing, with numerous solo spots, here taken with distinction as part of an expressive and colourful performance. It was time spent in a downtown nightclub, with the suggestion of tired limbs (this is a ballet score) as the first flickers of light to welcome a new day are perceived; find the sunglasses. The World was reportedly created over several days; Milhaud managed it in fifteen minutes.

In Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, Kurt Weill arranges several numbers from his and Bertolt Brecht’s satirical “play with music”, The Threepenny Opera (1928, Berlin), for woodwind & brass ensemble plus piano, guitar, accordion, banjo and drum-kit. These are cabaret numbers, the best-known being ‘Mack the Knife’. All the movements were performed with style and affection, sometimes with an edge to fuel a suggestion of decadence.

For An American in Paris (1928, Carnegie Hall, New York City) George Gershwin put his visit to the French capital into music. It now exists in a recent Critical Edition by Mark Clague that makes a few cuts and other changes, such as the pitch of the taxi-horns and omitting the timpani crescendo towards the end. Slatkin has previously conducted the revamped score,, but for Dublin he returned to the publication that has done sterling service for nearly a century, an old friend. It was given an outing of pizzazz, of nocturnal boulevards, of carnivals, and of something drinkable (mine would be red) while being serenaded and stirred by local jazzers. The NSO responded brilliantly to Slatkin whose imprint on this masterpiece was evident throughout.

Following the Milhaud, Lise de la Salle played Ravel’s (two-hand) Piano Concerto, completed in 1931 and premiered in Paris the following year. Well-detailed in the orchestra (although the trumpeter nearly fell off early on, the hornist to a lesser extent later), de la Salle was efficient in allegros and more engaging with lyrical passages, and those that are trill-laden, which meant that the slow movement, essayed particularly spaciously, was the standout, rendered with sensitive touch and dulcet tone, very nicely supported by the NSO woodwinds, then strings, if put in its place by a hectic Finale, undoubtedly virtuosic from the pianist if not doing the music’s character or the orchestra many favours. Still, Lise made amends with her encore, “for peace and beauty”, Schubert’s song, An die Musik (D547), in an unidentified transcription. Yes, here’s to music.


If you’d like to hear Mark Clague’s Gershwin publication, it’s here:

One of my records of the month, for March, was this,

March’s Record of the Month.