FRENCH conductor Fabien Gabel made his RSNO debut last Friday, brushing the dust off some relatively rare offerings from his homeland.
Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne might not be neglected, as such, but they certainly don’t have the concert hall ubiquity they once enjoyed. In these earthy folk tunes, sung in the Auvergne dialect, Lisa Milne should have made a fine soloist, her warm, expressive voice infinitely capable of the requisite lustiness.
But what characterisation there was was frustratingly lost in a performance that failed to project above the orchestra.
The rhapsodic Baïlèro was stilted, with Milne’s voice beautiful when it could be heard. There were some lovely wind solos in the Trois Bourrées, but again Milne’s cheeky subtleties were frustratingly inaudible. Most successful were the mournful Pastourelle and the final Uno Jionto pastouro, the soprano’s evocative tones finally soaring above a quieted orchestra.
The opening Rob Roy Overture also failed to ignite; Berlioz himself was never happy with it. Its rather twee take on Scottish folk tunes is pocked with moments of dazzling orchestration, but Gabel didn’t do anything to relieve an overall impression of somewhat uninspired pastoralism.
César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor has fallen rather out of fashion, but there were many things to savour in the RSNO’s performance of this odd mix of German and French symphonic traditions. Gabel dynamically built a series of thunderous climaxes, the orchestra sounding like one instrument, deep and burnished. But the heart, amidst all those inventively repeating motifs, was curiously missing – and that is something no conductor can resolve.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West