Magically transformed from a children’s piano duet, Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite unfailingly charms both performers and listeners.
Soft string sounds wove their diaphanous threads for Sleeping Beauty, leading to evocative woodwind bird calls and eastern promise from the Prince of Pagodas with colourful, delicate percussion. Young conductor Kazuki Yamada inspired vibrant expression from various soloists: violin, bassoon, cor anglais – never getting in the way of the music; controlling long tutti crescendos perfectly.
Challenging, exciting, exposed, totally absorbing . . . such is Prokofiev’s music. James Ehnes played like a demon and angel in the Violin Concerto No1. Velvet lyricism contrasted with precise neat rhythm, perfect filigree harmonics floated over a splendid tuba melody with glittering musical fireworks enhancing a crazy village band effect; whirling and dancing. The mesmerised audience loved every minute, as did the smiling orchestra. Yamada carefully gauged accompaniments throughout.
Naval lieutenant Rimsky-Korsakov eventually changed tack to composer, his genius for brilliant orchestrating presented superbly well in Scheherazade (1888). Menacing storms for full brass, splendid bassoon solos, almost inaudible snare drum writing, shrieking rigging eventually culminating in an earth-shattering shipwreck. The indisputable star of the evening was leader Laurence Jackson, beguiling as Scheherazade with exquisite, sensuous sound throughout, eventually mesmerizing with a heart-stopping seamless gossamer thread.