RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra: Gounod, Ibert and Richard Strauss
The heart and soul of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra – its strings and wind instruments – come to the fore in three pieces of enchanting delicacy and luxurious harmonies.
Better known as one of France’s great composers of opera and church music, Charles Gounod’s gorgeous Petite Symphony brims over with an infectious brilliance and brio of its own, drawn from its pastel-coloured palette of singing flute and pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons. Glancing back to the pristine precision of Haydn and Mozart, it showcases all of the voices even as it blends them seamlessly together in music of sparkling wit and sumptuous elegance.
The headlining cello is but first among equals in Ibert’s Concerto, sharing the stage with delightfully light and airy woodwinds who all get their own moment in the sun in this fleet, fluid, playful and witty concoction featuring the orchestra’s cello section leader Martin Johnson as soloist.
Carried aloft and along by the ravishing treatment of shining melodies and warming harmonies that would become his signature, Richard Strauss’ Serenade for wind instruments – his Op. 7 – offers an exquisite foretaste of what was to come from the last of the great Romantics. Composed soon after he turned 17, it boasts an effortless sophistication and emotional maturity that caresses the ear. Like Gounod’s Petite symphonie, it glances over its shoulder back towards Mozart and Haydn but casts an altogether beguiling spell all of its own.