The Orchestre de Paris is fully installed in their
new temporary three year home at the old music hall, the Théâtre
Mogador. Quitting their address of 20 years, the Salle Pleyel, they
have taken up temporary quarters in this downtown location which is
near the old Opéra, the Palais Garnier. The first regular pair
of concerts in their new season featured megastar covergirl violin virtuoso
Anne-Sophie Mutter (as of July, Mrs. Andre Previn) playing the Tchaikovsky
Violin Concerto with the Music Director, Christoph Eschenbach, on the
The performance of the concerto sent me back to my
childhood, growing up in the suburbs of California. The Easter ritual
at my house was to be served slices of the traditional honey-glazed
ham, the centerpiece of the table. This was a large, watery, tasteless
lump of pork that had been cooking for days and was completely besotted
with a thick crust of dripping, gooey honey. The unavailability of such
American haute cuisine in France is one of the reasons I find this country
When Miss Mutter launched herself at this concerto,
it seemed to me that I was being served "honey-glazed" Tchaikovsky.
She played as if from the Eugène Ysaÿe School of
Violin Playing, i. e. "leave no phrase underwrought."
I was wondering if the theater should have posted signs warning diabetics
about this performance. This style of playing is not at all Eschenbach’s
musical esthetic and you could see he was having trouble slowing the
tempo down enough to accommodate Miss Mutter’s lumbering gait. Like
the Odd Couple, Eschenbach was compelled to play the tidy Felix to Miss
Mutter’s unkempt Oscar. The ovation at the end was, of course, enormous,
and as an encore, she played Bach in the same fashion.
The opening work was a six minute opus of Pierre Boulez
from 1999, "Notation VII." To say that this is for "large
orchestra" is an understatement. The rather expansive stage area
at the newly refigured Mogador was chock-full of musicians. There were
three harps, for instance, which I confess not to remember hearing.
It failed to make a strong impression although played with obvious intensity.
Eschenbach was back after intermission with the most-often
programmed of all of Prokofiev’s symphonies, the Fifth. He was free
of partners here and delivered his usual crackling, exciting reading.
Eschenbach has a fine ear for line and detail and the orchestra responded
with alert, virtuoso playing.
About the acoustics, the first impressions of this
concert and the earlier one on September 18 is that there is an overall
rich and warm sound for the orchestra and soloists. This is welcome
news because an often-heard complaint is that the two halls where most
orchestras appear, Salle Pleyel, scheduled for refurbishing, and the
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, have acoustics on the
dry side. To my ears, however, there is a bit too much reverberation
and this makes the luxuriant sound become a bit blurry, particularly
in the tutti passages.
The fan shape of the hall means that all of the 1800
seats are close to the stage and the reconfiguration has pushed the
orchestra further out in the hall, occupying the space over the pit
in the old theater. Half or more of the musicians on stage are in front
of the proscenium. Some of the fortissimo passages in the symphony could
likely exceed those new and infamous European Union sound level limits,
both for the players and the audience. There is a performance at the
Mogador of the Berlioz "Te Deum" next month that could cause
light bulbs to burst.