Tonight at Strathmore was a philharmonic of many good compositions. It included the repertoires of three excellent composers Maurice Ravel, Francis Poulenc, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This was a compelling collage, Maurice Ravel’s Bolero a Spanish dance number being followed by Francis Poulenc’s Gloria an epic oratorio with the final piece being Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite from The Thousand and One Nights, Op. 35 which is an Arabic serenade.
Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, although the melody a bit repetitive the dynamics are appropriate for an opening number. It starts with soft pizzicatos that eventually greaten into a loud klangfarbenmelodie. Piotr Gajewski led his orchestra soundly through a challenging score. At times the volume in Bolero is so acute that it really highlights individual instrumentations. His conducting controlled the volume magnificently. He leaned and constrained his movements gracefully for the pianissimos and as the sound increased so did the exhilaration and extension of his gestures. Gajewski also conducted in a symbolic manner as if he were playing the instruments himself.
For Francis Poulenc’s Gloria, it was time for the Chorale and the strikingly elegant Danielle Talamantes. Danielle had her hair pinned up and was absolutely gorgeous. I’m always astonished by how Danielle projects her voice and the serene beauty that accompanies it. Gloria was performed differently than how I have heard it before. I have only heard it performed solo piano and choir. The orchestrated variation performed this evening sounded a lot better than the solo piano versions I have heard before. The Chorale sounded excellent. I would be lying if I said this was their most astounding performance ever, but that was only for reasons beyond anybodies control. I don’t want to go into the details. This score was performed splendidly, it was a shame Danielle Talemantes didn’t receive a standing ovation.
Post intermission brought on what I considered the most anticipated score of the evening. Nikolai’s The Thousand and One Nights. It was lead by concertmaster Justine Lamb-Budge. Her opening violin solo was the most alluring piece of musical composition I have ever heard. Every violin piece Justine played was performed exquisitely. The National Philharmonic performed every movement of this Suite dazzlingly. I felt as if I was Sinbad himself setting sail on an adventure. I didn’t want the music to end but at the same time I couldn’t wait to give a standing ovation. It was appropriate that at its conclusion it did receive an ovation and a long one at that, probably one of the longest standing ovations I have ever been a part of. It was accompanied with whistles and shouts of enthusiasm.