Classical Review: An American in Paris at the Royal Albert Hall

July 22, 2018
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Sakari Oramo, the glittering band’s new chief conductor, had us in the palm of his hand as he brought out the symphonic nature of An American In Paris, George Gershwin’s orchestral piece that has become one of the world’s most popular dance film scores. 

A picture of film stars Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly on stage reminds us why the film led to such a rush to join dance schools – particularly among boys – to take up dancing as the perfect profession. 

The reasoning was simple: you were paid to have a good time as well as getting your hands on girls at a very early age.

After a slightly sticky opening few bars, the Finnish conductor pulled the orchestra together and revealed the music’s symphonic disciplines as well as the terrific playing abilities of each and every section of the orchestra. Or should I say band? 

Before arriving I half expected to see a staged version included of the film’s famous dance sequences. 

I am happy to report nothing was allowed to come between us and the music; and what a joy it was. 

Post-interval, pianist Angela Hewitt and Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony soon hammered us all into a numb surrender. 

Each movement of this curiously naive and repetitive piece stretched on and on. 

Following movement three, which felt like number 30, ever increasing numbers battled their way to the exits. Oramo’s determined and ever more fixed smile was matched by Hewitt’s performance at the keyboard. 

Playing on a level with the conductor she indulged in a series of wild faces and threw herself all over the keyboard. 

Was she kidding herself she was playing Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov?

It did not work. The piece itself is a curious dissection of Messiaen’s music. 

To the listener it developed an educational factor as layers of notes piled up on one another. 

It would fit very well in the finals of a music school, with top marks given for instant recognition of each instrument. 

At the homeward bound bus queue the general comment was “Wasn’t it long?”. 

You can say that again.



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