On Record – Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Domingo Hindoyan – Debussy, Dukas & Roussel (Onyx Classics)

Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune L86 (1894); Jeux, L133 (1912)
Dukas La Péri (1911)
Roussel Bacchus et Ariane Op.43 – Suite no.2 (1931)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Domingo Hindoyan

Onyx Classics ONYX4224 [68’07″’]
Producer Andrew Cornall Engineers Philip Siney, Christopher Tann
Recorded 20-21 January, 24, 25 & 27 February 2022 at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

Domingo Hindoyan’s first release as Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is a sequence of French ballet music which stretches across almost three decades, taking in that broad stylistic succession from Impressionism to Neo-Classicism as its remit.

What’s the music like?

Belatedly acknowledged as one of the defining masterpieces from the 20th century, Debussy’s Jeux is more familiar in the concert hall, where its myriad of formal subtleties and expressive nuances can more fully be savoured. Without ever feeling rushed, Hindoyan’s take is an alert and impulsive one – lacking just a last degree of mystery in its opening and closing pages, but with its larger sections maintaining a flexible momentum and those calmer interludes exuding a tangible expectancy. A reading, then, which would rank high on any shortlist of recordings.

Almost two decades on, Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane ballet inhabits a very different aesthetic. Effectively its second act, the Second Suite is not lacking for any sensual appeal – witness the interplay of violin and viola in its ‘Introduction’ (eloquently rendered by Thelma Handy and Nicholas Bootiman), or mounting fervour of The Kiss then ingratiating poise in Dance of Ariadne and Bacchus. Hindoyan has their measure, duly taking the final Bacchanale at an impetuous if never headlong tempo that builds to an apotheosis of finely controlled abandon.

Although it achieved notoriety via Nijinsky’s choreography (and dancing) in 1912, Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was fully established as a game-changer in Western music – its opening flute melody (languidly played by Cormac Henry) setting in motion a sequence of episodes whose content is only marginally less remarkable than those seamless transitions between them. Ensuring an unbroken continuity, Hindoyan summons a response of unforced rightness in music whose essence is only made explicit as the last notes resonate into silence.

Finally, to Dukas and La Péri which proved his final work of any real consequence. After its brass delivers a lusty rendering of the Fanfare, the orchestra makes the most of this ‘poème dansé’ – whether in its crepuscular initial stages, the sweeping melody that duly comes to the fore then that orgiastic passage which sets in motion a gradual if unfaltering approach toward the main climax. Suitably uninhibited here, Hindoyan rightly places greatest emphasis on the ensuing postlude – its mingled radiance and regret surely as affecting as any music of this era.

Does it all work?

Yes, in terms of individual works. Hindoyan is evidently at home in this music, and the RLPO clearly relishes playing music not at the forefront of its programmes during recent years. The Roussel seems a little out of context, those ‘symphonic fragments’ from his earlier ballet Le festin de l’araignée would have been more appropriate, with Debussy’s Prélude replaced by Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales for a cohesive selection of French ballet music from just before the First World War. Hopefully Hindoyan will tackle these pieces in due course.

Is it recommended?

Indeed. The RLPO’s playing is abetted by the spaciousness and definition of sound obtained from Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, and Andrew Stewart pens succinctly informative notes. The association between orchestra and conductor looks set to go from strength to strength.

Listen

For more information on this release, and for purchase options, head to the Onyx Classics website. For more on the artists, head to the websites of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and their principal conductor Domingo Hindoyan.

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