The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is always at its best when playing for their principal conductor Charles Dutoit. Their latest concert together, flanking Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Respighi’s Fountains of Rome and Stravinsky’s Petrushka, was a wonderfully engaging affair, notable for the beauty of the orchestral sound as well as for the depth of Dutoit’s insights. Respighi and Stravinsky were were both pupils of Rimsky-Korsakov, and their colouristic range and wonderfully textured sonorities owe much to the finesse and brilliance of their teacher. It’s a repertory to which Dutoit and the RPO are admirably suited.
Charles Dutoit brought out the beauty of the RPO’s engaging orchestral sound and cellist Gautier Capucon was gracefully beguiling playing Dvořák
Fountains of Rome was all lingering sensuality and spaciousness, the opalescent textures beautifully layered, the dynamics superbly controlled, the climactic depiction of the Trevi Fountain at Noon tremendous in its majesty. In contrast, Dutoit took the opening of Petrushka at almost daunting speed. There were some rough edges here, and the performance took a couple of minutes to settle. The Russian Dance, though, was exacting in its precision: the mixture of the tragic and the grotesque in the later scenes was immaculately negotiated; and the instrumental solos were beautifully honed and poised.
Gautier Capuçon was the soloist in the Dvořák – an expansive performance, grand and high Romantic in manner. Speeds were on the slow side, a bit too much so in the second subject of the first movement. Capuçon sustained the momentum, however, with the eloquence of his playing and the dark intensity of his tone. The orchestral solos, horn and violin, were again impeccably done. Dutoit, seemingly carried away with it all, let go of his baton a couple of times: it was retrieved for him first by the audience, then by the string section. Capuçon offered Pablo Casals’s Song of the Birds as an encore, played with a meditative grace that was utterly beguiling.