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Alain Lefèvre to the rescue...

Orange County
Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall
02/06/2020 -  & February 7, 8, 9, 2020
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major, M. 83 – Le Tombeau de Couperin, M. 68a
Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, opus 14, H. 48

Alain Lefèvre (piano)
Pacific Symphony, Dennis Kim (concertmaster), Carl St. Clair (conductor)

A. Lefèvre (© Pacific Symphony)

This French triple-bill had everything going for it: Ravellian ethereal sobriety, topped by jazzy percolations and an eventual Berliozian hallucinogenic voyage to crown the evening. Summarily uneventful, notwithstanding Alain Lefèvre’s flourishing rescue.

At a glance, Le Tombeau de Couperin, an elegant vignette honoring World War I’s soldiers, has vast sentimental clauses flooding the page. St. Clair’s direction, unfortunately, didn’t live up to Ravel’s illustrious yearnings, though the “Forlane”, pocketed with mild dissonance, generated sprits of occasional sparkle. An overall impuissance during the “Prélude” wasn’t able to regather and push the piece into the punctuated and ultimate respite of definitive grace it so deserves.

After an ‘over-education’ by Carl St. Clair, after the intermission, the Symphonie fantastique consumed though frequently subsided. Maestro St. Clair’s pedantic take muddied up the possibilities for orchestral shine despite bright pockets, namely the principal cellist Warren Hagerty, replacement to deceased Timothy Landauer, who led the cellos in a firm melodic line during the “Scène aux champs”.

If the opening Tombeau wasn’t necessarily earth-shattering, the orchestra banded behind Alain Lefèvre’s arrival in what had to be “the pivotal turning point” of the evening. This Québécois came fully prepared and eager to delve into Ravel. At the get-go, M. Lefèvre set the controls on the piece with an acquiescent St. Clair bleeding in the background. Undoubtedly, the most poignant depiction came inside the delicate extractions of the “Adagio assai” with its soulful purpose and sounded elegance. Striated with Gershwin shrieks and sassy twists on every level, Alain Lefèvre has to be one of the most appropriately vetted pianists to govern the French repertoire. So suave, yet so possessive, yet so immaculate...the spectacle left the audience in awe...so much so, that he delivered an encore, namely his own...a golliwog-like Gottschalk rag piece leaving the ears a buzzin’ in disbelief. Not to eclipse his wondrous rendition of Ravel’s Concerto, this piece ‘rocked and rolled’ unlike any other...dizzying splits of dazzled fireworks. Fantastic!

Christie Grimstad



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