The new “find” of the orchestra is the young Austrian-Spanish conductor Teresa Riveiro Böhm, whose bravery and heart aroused much admiration during her debut.
Faced with very high scores and seasoned professionals around her, she was a model of composure and meticulous commitment.
We should perhaps take a step back on this 31-year-old young woman, whose career as a conductor only really began in 2018. Riveiro Böhm went from violin to choir direction in Vienna, and from there she won the prestigious Neeme Järvi Prize in Switzerland in 2019. Meanwhile, a scholarship to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra led to a series of career breaks in the UK. And now she is visiting Australia for the first time.
by Ravel Mother hen sequel made an enchanting first impression, with a smooth and graceful rendition that conveyed the quaint, fairy-tale innocence of this work. Having been a children’s piano piece before Ravel orchestrated it, this suite is filled with sparkling flute and clarinet melodies that portray characters from Sleeping Beauty and Tom Thumb tales. Using small but clear gestures, Riveiro Böhm gave a beautiful floating quality to each of his scenes.
This performance also surprised people, when extremely realistic bird calls were emitted from Tom Thumb’s solo violin and flutes, where Tom Thumb leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for the birds to gather. Ravel, the most skilful and imaginative of orchestrators, has always had sleight of hand up his sleeve. His opera The child and the spells contains even greater enchantments, and we really must hear it someday in Adelaide.
Around the same time that audiences were first treated to the Mother Goose suite, an ambitious young Prokofiev launched his Piano Concerto No. 1, and Stravinsky delighted Paris with his Bird of Fire ballet music. In fact, all this happened in a few years, in 1910-1912; this conjunction of extraordinary creativity in the pre-war years was another aspect that made this program so interesting.
Both concise and compelling, the Prokofiev can be difficult to listen to under normal circumstances. Some commentators described it at the time as “musical mud” and the product of a madman, and indeed the compressed form of this concerto seems to spring from a bewildering array of ideas. Here, however, at the town hall, the circumstances were anything but normal. Alexander Gavrylyuk, the Ukrainian-born, Sydney-based piano virtuoso, is something else with Russian music, as we’ve already seen with his Rachmaninoff – in 2016 he was phenomenal in the first piano concerto of Rachmaninoff with the ASO.
Here played the greatest involvement and conviction. All the elements of this steroidal concerto were worked out: its glistening jets of brilliance, its swirling rhythms and its searing emotion took on their full artistic meaning with Gavrylyuk’s marvelous pianism.
At the same time, you had to admire the wonderfully cool Riveiro Böhm. Conducting the orchestra with precise and skilful gestures of hand and baton, she gave this work confidence and a clean and orderly structure – Prokofiev seems to have aimed for precisely this in his concertos (and of course in his “classical” Symphony ), in contrast to the itinerant romanticism of Rachmaninoff.
There was no way after that Gavrylyuk could escape without offering at least an encore, and a divine rendition of Chopin’s Nocturne No. 8 in D flat major showed the complete artist that he is. Supple and poetic, it was pure Chopin.
An unknown name, Grażyna Bacewicz was a Polish violinist and composer who studied, like so many others, with Nadia Boulanger; she was one of the first women in her country to achieve wide recognition for writing concert works. His 1943 Overture is a forceful work of almost cinematic proportions. In particular, it gives the violins a terrific drive, and under Riveiro Böhm it was fast and gripping.
Bird of Fire was the score that brought Stravinsky international fame, and yet it is the three suites he later wrote, rather than the complete original ballet, that audiences are most familiar with today. Of these three, the 1919 version is usually the most frequently played. So it’s always good to hear the longer one he wrote in 1945, which incorporates music for several additional pantomime scenes.
It was a well-controlled performance that brought satisfying life to life Fire Bird captivating magic. Its feathery textures and deep mysteries were all there to savor. It’s still hard to believe that 28-year-old Stravinsky, with only a handful of minor works behind him, could have come up with stunningly beautiful original music – only to apparently repudiate it three years later in The Rite of Spring. . But the truth is that Bird of Fire contains rhythmic innovations that foreshadow this later, more revolutionary work; and that performance certainly brought him home to the cymbal and bass drum thump that punctuates The Infernal Dance of King Kastcheri. This quite startled some audience members (at least one did in the row behind me).
Once again, we could admire the meticulous preparation of Riveiro Böhm for this performance. She has an exemplary technique, a very fine musical understanding and a cool temperament. Full of praise also to the ASO for their superb playing throughout this concert. These wonderful musicians rally around their conductor and always seem to make the most of every occasion.
This performance took place on Thursday 13 October at Adelaide City Hall. The concert is replayed tonight (October 14).