Spokane Symphony Orchestra Sunday, Jan. 7, at The Met
The Spokane Symphony, apparently inadvertently, celebrated the centennial of the birth of Francis Poulenc at its Symphony at The Met concert Sunday. Poulenc was born exactly 100 years ago to the day, but no one at The Met concert thought to mention it. In addition to Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, conductor Fabio Mechetti’s all-French program included two captivating works by Gabriel Faure and Darius Milhaud.
The afternoon’s most beautiful playing came in the suite from Faure’s “Masques et Bergamasques,” a work both of the composer’s youth and of his old age. Long after Faure became honored and famous, he slipped into a painful deafness just as Beethoven did. When Prince Albert of Monaco (the father of Prince Rainier) commissioned Faure to compose a ballet in 1919, Faure responded by the reworking of some material from his youth. The result was a work of remarkable freshness, beginning with a breezy overture sounding much like Bizet’s youthful Symphony in C and ending with an almost Debussian pastorale, hazy with bittersweet, piquant harmonies.
The orchestra gave the Faure suite an elegant sheen they rarely achieve in their Met performances. The playing in the afternoon’s other works was more aggressive than needed in a small hall such as The Met. In both the Poulenc and Milhaud works, in fact, the brass sounded harsh and brittle when only a tart crispness was called for and the woodwinds frequently appeared top heavy and shrill.
Milhaud’s “Saudades do Brasil (Nostalgic Longings for Brazil)” were the musical results of the composer’s diplomatic posting in Brazil during World War I. Mechetti’s helpful spoken program notes showed how Milhaud used pungent combinations of melodies and harmonies in simultaneously different keys and punchy adaptations of Brazilian dance rhythms. Each movement, named after some neighborhood or landmark in one of Brazil’s major cities, reflected the character of that place like a musical snapshot.
Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos is a magical combination of styles from nightclub to opera house (and, I swear it, a touch of barn dance fiddling!). The rapport between soloists Aida Ribiero Mechetti and Linda Siverts reflected a collaboration that proved a pleasure for them and for us.
Despite the moments of overly aggressive playing, the orchestra performance was a cheery antidote to a rainy Sunday afternoon.
The concert will be repeated Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at The Met.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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