I just got back from my third symphony performance of the season, the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra playing Debussy and Berlioz. The Debussy piece was La Mer, one of my favorites, so I’d been looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, the performance was disappointing. It was slower than it should have been, and much too heavy and deliberate. Many of the passages were articulated, even staccato, when they should have been legato to the point of slurring. To be fair, the wind section was good, even at the slower pace. Still, while the orchestra played all the notes, it wasn’t really La Mer.
I was pleasantly surprised by Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, though. The orchestra was clearly much more comfortable with it. It’s a dynamic piece for Berlioz’s time, with a very wide range and a number of surprises, and they did it justice. Hopefully with a little more practice, they’ll play La Mer with the same ease and command.
The next performance on my calendar is Respighi’s Fountains of Rome, next weekend. Fingers crossed!