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A Night of Rhythm and Dance:
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
La Valse (1919-20) [13:16]
Daphnis et Chloé: Suite No. 2 (1913) [16:16]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Songs: Fascinatin’ Rhythm [2:58]; The Man I Love [4:34]; Nice Work If You Can Get It [2:41]; Someone To Watch Over Me [4:30]; Summertime [6:55]; I Got Rhythm [5:15]
sung by Susan Graham
Zhao JIPING (b. 1954)
Farewell My Concubine: Suite for Orchestra [17:31]
Jean-Paul BEINTUS (b. 1966)
He Got Rhythm (Hommage à George Gershwin) [8:16]
Mari and Momo Kodama (pianos)
Eitetsu HAYASHI (b. 1952)
Utage
Eitetsu Hayashi (wadaiko)
Isao MATSUSHITA (b. 1951)
Hi-Ten-Yu
Eitetsu Hayashi (wadaiko)
Berliner Philharmoniker/Kent Nagano
rec. Live from the Waldbühner, Berlin, 25 June 2000
EUROARTS INVITATION 2050526 [112:00]


The orchestra, viewed from outdoor audience’s perspective, was dominated by a huge drum poised vertically and centred above and to the rear of the players. This drum, was, undoubtedly, the star attraction of this colourful, cosmopolitan concert conducted by the Japanese-American maestro, Kent Nagano.
 
The gigantic drum, poised as though to summon some King Kong, figured prominently in both Isao Matsushita’s Hi-Ten-Yu (Fly-Heaven-Play), a concerto for drums and orchestra and Eitetsu Hayashi’s Utage. We are told in the scant notes that “Eitetsu Hayashi is a famous master of wadaiko, the traditional art of Japanese drumming”. Fly-Heaven-Play began softly with a deep rumble from the huge drum. There’s also some virtuoso playing on an array of assorted drums spread across from the orchestra’s percussion section and occupying at least as much space both vertically and horizontally. Part of Matsushita’s orchestration also kept the Berlin Philharmoniker’s percussion busy. I will draw a veil over the cacophony that was Matsushita’s modernistic writing for the orchestra. This clearly left the audience bemused. Instead I will concentrate on the amazing extended cadenza, played solely on that imposing drum, that reawakened them and had them giving Eitetsu Hayashi a standing ovation for his amazing performance. This writing coaxed both thunder and delicacy from his instrument. Utage was another item performed on the big drum that riveted audience attention.
 
At this Waldbühne concert, exoticism won over traditionalism. One of its joys was the performance of Jiping’s suite from his sublime film score for Farewell My Concubine. It features a small orchestra of ethnic far Eastern instruments and soprano soloist, placed in front of the orchestra.. Again notes or subtitles to identify performers with their instruments would have been helpful. The ethnic instruments enhanced the music considerably, adding dimension and character to the texture. The music has a haunting pathos, and excitement, in the form of a thunderous gallop, and a most appealing late romantic style coda that might have been penned by Steiner or Korngold.
 
The main attraction for many will have been the appearance of the American mezzo-soprano, Susan Graham, singing six George Gershwin melodies: Fascinatin’ Rhythm; The Man I Love; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Someone To Watch Over Me; Summertime and I Got Rhythm. Cross-over singing can have its drawbacks and I have to report that I was not completely won over by Ms Graham’s way with Gershwin. In this I am maybe overly conscious of the great Ella Fitzgerald’s performances. Sometimes I was too aware of Susan Graham’s vocal dexterity and not enough about the line of the song. Having said that she was certainly animated and expressive.
 
Of the other items in the concert: sisters Mari and Momo Kodama made exciting and lyrical soloists in French composer, Jean-Pascal Beintus’s brief He Got Rhythm (Hommage à George Gershwin). Nagano led the orchestra in a performance of Ravel’s La Valse that accentuated not only the lilt but also its sardonic, satirical aspects. Thye also included a scintillating and exciting Daphnis et Chloé suite.
 
EuroArts’ minimal notes – just a half page – give little or no detail on the works performed.
 
A concert dominated and highlighted by Far Eastern music that thrilled and fascinated.
 
Ian Lace
 

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