Live at the Royal Albert Hall: Friere & Bringuier

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz; Chopin; Gluck; Roussel; Ravel
LABELS: Bel Air Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Live at the Royal Albert Hall: Friere & Bringuier
WORKS: Berlioz: Le Corsaire – overture; Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21; Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (trans. Sgambati); Roussel: Symphony No. 3; Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2
PERFORMER: Nelson Friere (piano); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Lionel Bringuier

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Conductor Lionel Bringuier, though just 23 years old in this 2010 concert, his Proms debut, shows maturity throughout its largely French programme. The Second Suite from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé is a crowd-pleasing orchestral showpiece, but Bringuier has the fluidity and pacing to ensure it does not become leaden. Even more impressive is Roussel’s Third Symphony, in which Bringuier’s evident penchant for chamber-like clarity reaps rewards in a taut yet genial reading. Clearly, he has already built an understanding with the BBC Symphony Orchestra that goes beyond the superficial. In the midst of their annual Proms marathon, these performances have a start of season freshness. Berlioz’s Le corsaire overture is memorable for its poetry and joie de vivre.

The highlight of the concert, though, comes from his partnership with Nelson Freire, an ideal soloist in Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto. Freire’s playing is heartfelt, but with a lightness of touch and apparent effortlessness that is the product of true virtuosity. The outer movements are charming, while time is seemingly suspended during the central Larghetto.

All credit is due to the engineers for largely taming the cavernous echo of the Royal Albert Hall without losing the visceral sense of a packed Prom on a balmy August evening, especially in the crisp sound and pictures of the Blu-ray version. But why place clips from the concert on the menu? It insults the musicianship that follows.

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Christopher Dingle