Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble
HK Cultural Centre
Reviewed: Mar 1
The appearance of Marc Minkowski's 40-member ensemble on Friday as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival seemed a great way to start the weekend. The players' skill was assured; the packaging carried the question marks.
It was a two-item programme, the second half filled by Rameau's Une Symphonie Imaginaire, imaginary because Rameau did not write discrete orchestral music to fill half an evening.
Minkowski, therefore, did it for him by assembling a potpourri from his operas and ballets: 17 interludes that variously displayed the composer's talent for dramatic turns and the musicians' finesse in execution.
Coming in at nearly 50 minutes, but bereft of the balletic movement and operatic vocals that would have originally surrounded the material, it began to outstay its welcome. Putting the longest movement at the end (the concluding chaconne from Les Indes Galantes) challenged the concentration. Better to have departed with the penultimate item replaying in one's head: a sublimely delivered Entreé de Polymnie from Les Boréades.
Music from Gluck's ballet Don Juan ou Le Festin de Pierre struggled to qualify as a first half, barely reaching the 25-minute mark.
It would have been shorter if Minkowski hadn't preceded each part with a description of what it was about to portray, already printed verbatim in the programme notes. After some feeble, jokey asides and a string of ums and ers, he wisely just let the music roll.
After a blandly played first movement from Schubert's Symphony No 5 as the first encore, Thibault Noally, the ensemble's lead violinist, stole the show with a scintillating performance of the Rondo from Mozart's Haffner Serenade.