Craig Ogden and the RTÉ NSO at the National Concert Hall, 30th January 2015

From the evocative Spanish melodies of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez to the bombast of Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3, tonight’s programme holds out much promise; with Australian guitarist Craig Ogden on hand for the solo duties and Takuo Yuasa on the conductor’s podium, it seems a safe bet that that promise will be fulfilled.

First up though is George Bizet’s Carmen Suite No. 1, a condensed blast through the themes of his opera. Dramatic from the start, as the winds introduce the theme over the swell of strings, Yuasa is a composed presence on stage. As the percussive dance of the Aragonaise gives way to the bucolic strains of the harp and flute entrance of the Intermezzo, the clarinet joins with a beautifully clear and defined tone. The fifth movement sees the bassoons kept busy, its lines twisting and snaking beneath the clarinet, before the familiar, but explosive, finale.

As Ogden takes his seat, he adjusts the small amp to his side, the crowd settles and, with a nod to Yuasa, launches into the opening chords of Rodrigo’s guitar concierto. Technically adept, Ogden’s playing is understated. As the quick passages of the allegro first movement unfold, it never feels rushed.

The haunting melodies of the Adagio second movement are first introduced by the cor anglais over the rich sound of Ogden’s guitar, before he take up its theme, drawing a warm and resonant sound from his instrument. As the movement progresses, the delicate solo passages are clear and balanced, with Ogden making full use of the expressive range of his guitar. As the orchestra rejoins him, the wide sweep of the strings is rich and full, underscored by the heavy organ-like presence in the bass, before the guitar picks out the final chord.

The third and final movement, marked by the rhythmic interplay between guitar and orchestra, is no less assured. As he works through the virtuosic passages, Ogden appears confident, relaxed, each exchange with the orchestra balanced well. As he draws the piece to a close, he shares a smile with Yuasa before the eruption of some well deserved applause.

The last selection of the evening sees the halls organ in action, for Camille Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Organ. As the first movement opens with a rather sombre string figure, punctuations from the bass set up the robust themes that follow – moving from the sentimental to severe and back, Yuasa draws a nuanced and well balanced sound from the orchestra. As the percussive drama of the opening movement dies away, the first low tone of the organ fills the space, its deep resonance under the strings bring a real sense of weight.

It’s in the final movement that the organs real power is felt. From the momentous opening chord, answered with equal strength by the orchestra, before the rippling lines of the piano are heard, there is a real sense of drama unfolding. As the finale approaches, the brass bringing their own heft to the sound, the organist lets loose the final chord, swelling in volume as the Yuasa brings the piece to a close.

Conductor – Takuo Yuasa

Soloist – Craig Ogden


Bizet – Carmen Suite No. 1

Rodrigo – Concierto de Aranjuez

Saint-Saens – Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Organ