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A display of originality and daring.

Byline: By Michael Bell

There are a few works that have qualities to continually shock and surprise listeners, in terms of originality and impact, no matter how many times you hear them.

Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is one such work, and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is most certainly another.

And it was these qualities of originality and sheer daring that conductor Thierry Fischer brought to the fore in a brilliantly played performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at St David's Hall.

This was not a romantic view of this pivotal score, but a dramatic one characterised by fast tempi.

The first movement, Reveries-Passions, was bitingly dramatic.

The second movement, Un bal, was somewhat lacking in charm, and unfortunately did not utilise Berlioz's additional cornet part which adds a certain extra colour to the score, but it was judiciously balanced with the important harp parts clearly audible.

The beautifully flowing Scene in the country, with beautifully polished string playing and lyrical woodwind lines, gave way to the ominous tread of the March to the Scaffold, crisply played, especially by the brass and percussion, though here Fischer chose not to observe Berlioz's request to repeat the opening section.

In the final movement, Witches' Sabbath, conductor and orchestra revelled in Berlioz's often-bizarre sound world, bringing this incredible work to a triumphant close.

This all-French programme had earlier begun with Henri Dutilleux's Metaboles, composed in 1965 for George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Louis Lortie was the superb soloist in Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, composed for one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein in 1931.

Close your eyes momentarily and it hardly seems possible that only one hand is in evidence at the keyboard such is the supremely skilled writing, and the demands Ravel makes on his soloist.

Lortie was fully attuned to each of this one movement work's varied sections, from the dark, mysterious opening, through the jazz-inspired central section to the resplendent conclusion.

Needless to say, Lortie was brilliantly accompanied by BBC Now.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 29, 2004
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