Valery Gergiev is a mystery. How do his idiosyncratic gestures lead to such beautiful and detailed results? Time and again his fluttering hands produced miracles of balance and ensemble that seemed to bear no relation to his signals.
Two very different works formed the highlights of this gala concert. Stepping out from his place as principal oboe, Emanuel Abbühl was an ideal soloist in Strauss’s Oboe Concerto. The cruel technical demands were all easily surmounted with romantic ardour and seductive tone, in the slow movement clarinet tendrils lovingly entwined themselves around the endless song of the oboe before we were warmed by the sweet playfulness of the finale.
An entirely different sound world was offered by Debussy’s ballet Jeux, which, after some initial disagreements over intonation between harps, flutes and strings at the start settled into a poetic and fluid landscape of intricate shimmerings, mysterious half lights and sudden changes of mood.
Ravel’s Bolero made an unlikely finale, but this mini concerto for orchestra allowed the spotlight to fall on each individual member as the winding theme continued its clockwork progress from the quietest of pianissimos towards a raucous end.