RTÉ Concert Orchestra ‘Summer Luchtime Concert’ at the National Concert Hall, 19th August 2014.

The latest lunchtime concert from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, conducted by John Wilson begins with Ludwig van Beethoven’s early seeds of Romanticism, and further delves into works from this era by Edvard Grieg, Johann Strauss II and lesser known George Butterworth.

Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture opens the concert, which is typical of his ‘Middle’ or ‘Heroic’ phase. Wilson immediately signals his intention to display the programmatic nature of a piece written for the 1804 tragedy, by Heinrich Joseph von Collin, by emphasising the pauses at the opening. Such sentiment is continued throughout, as Wilson calls for a varied dynamic contour and animated playing.

Next there is more incidental music, with Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No 1, and it is perhaps here that the time constraints of the concert are negatively exposed. As this is a fifty minute concert broadcast live on RTÉ Lyric FM, to get through such an extensive programme, there is little room for any slow, melancholy music. The first movement, Morning Mood is taking so briskly that it resembles morning rush hour more than a peaceful sunrise, particularly for sections with many semiquavers. For the second movement, The Death of Åse, Wilson puts down his baton and uses his hands to conduct, calling for more emotive playing. Third Movement Anitra’s Danse is far lighter by contrast, with energetic pizzicato.  In the Hall of the Mountain King offers the highlight of the concert, with suitable marcato. Wilson gradually increases both tempo and volume throughout, leading to a wonderfully frantic finish.

Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad Rhapsody is performed with impassioned conviction, yet there is a delicacy which allows for a sweet melancholy. This piece is an early introduction to twentieth century techniques and has shades of later British composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gerald Finzi. The string solo by orchestra leader Mia Cooper is suitably poignant, and a fitting tribute considering the composer was killed at 31 in the First World War.

The final piece of the concert is Strauss’s Roses from the South, which is typically waltz like and representative of his light Viennese music. After a pensive beginning, the waltz theme flows and Wilson is again playful with some pauses, thus ending the concert with a jovial mood. The last note and applause of the audience is at precisely 1.55pm, which probably accounts for rather upbeat tempos employed throughout the concert, but with tickets on offer for a mere ten euro, one would hardly have reason to grumble.



Beethoven – Coriolanus Overture

Grieg – Peer Gynt Suite No. 1

Butterworth – A Shropshire Lad Rhapsody

Strauss – Roses from the South