EIF 2015: Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Usher Hall, Review

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Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Nicola Benedetti (violin) Vasily Petrenko (conductor) Members of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
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Last night’s concert with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the second of its two EIF concerts, featured composers from the Northern Hemisphere. The concert began with the Norwegian composer Geirr Tveitt’s ‘Pieces from a Hundred Hardanger Tunes.’ Grieg’s arrangements of Hardanger folk tunes was an inspiration to Tveitt who was born a year after Grieg’s death in 1907. A professional pianist as well as composer, he fell out of favour during the second world war sympathising as he did with an ‘occupier’s’ government. However, Pieces from a Hundred Tunes – where he orchestrated Grieg’s piano originals – resurrected his reputation as an accomplished composer.

Conducted energetically by the Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko, seven pieces from Tveitt’s composition were selected and one could see why his reputation was resurrected as he created the most imaginative orchestral interpretation of these relatively, simple tunes.

The selection was an apt choice illustrating as it did the versatility of the arrangements. Some of the pieces featured the full brass section, who gave an exemplary performance, whilst, in contrast, others featured the dulcet tones of the harp and flute. Playing with impressive precision the orchestra concluded the selection with Hardanger ale (Suite No 4) which ended in a rousing crescendo.

The Russian composer Glazanov was next on the programme with Nicola Benedetti playing his Violin Concerto in A minor. An acclaimed virtuoso violinist, she admits to having an “inextricable connection” with the Glazanov concerto. With only one movement, it is a challenging composition for any violinist to play as it scored for almost the entire register of the instrument. Her interpretation, with its various moods and themes, was technically brilliant, particularly in the cadenza. The audience showed their appreciation and she graciously played the Serabande from Bach’s D minor partita as an encore.

Sibelius’s passionate First Symphony concluded the programme. The first movement begins with a clarinet solo but gradually the music gathers momentum, like a soul in torment, with a preponderance of timpani and brass. At times one can hear the influence of Tchaikovsky in the majestic, lush string melodies but ultimately Sibelius’ unique style prevails.

Event: 16 Aug