|ORR 25th Anniversary: The Guardian|
The Guardian by Martin Kettle, 9 November 2014
ORR/Gardiner review - exhilarating 25th anniversary celebration, The Barbican, London
Celebrating a quarter-century of sprucing up the 19th-century repertoire, John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique showed their mettle with Beethoven and Berlioz.
To a year loaded with sombre anniversaries, John Eliot Gardiner has brought brighter musical garlands of his own. In March, he marked the 50th anniversary of his groundbreaking first Monteverdi Choir concert. This month, it was the turn of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, which Gardiner first convened 25 years ago to do to the 19th-century repertoire what he and the English Baroque Soloists had done, and still do, to earlier music.
Beethoven rightly took pride of place in this exhilarating anniversary concert. The music of the most consequential composer of the 19th, or any other, century is at the heart of the ORR’s project, so it was appropriate to begin with the Leonore No 2 overture and to finish with the Fifth symphony, icon of all musical icons. As ever with this conductor, it was a thought-out pairing, since the grandeur and spaciousness of the approach to the overture was a reminder that the re-examination of Beethoven performance practice involves a lot more than abandoning vibrato and hitting the accelerator, though Gardiner certainly did both in a white-knuckle ride through the symphony.
It was appropriate, too, that Berlioz, embodiment of the revolutionary and romantic spirits alike, occupied the rest of the evening. Anna Caterina Antonacci was a responsive and intelligent soloist in La Captive and La Mort de Cléopâtre, the two works showcasing how much colour and searchingly dramatic detail the Gardiner and ORR approach brings to such repertoire, never more so than in the spareness of the writing that follows Cleopatra’s death and which looks forward 80 years to Strauss’s Salome.
Politicians claim mission accomplished at their peril. Yet Gardiner can surely make the claim in music without much risk of hubris. Most of the ORR strings played the Fifth symphony standing up. As the finale exploded into C major, all the wind players rose to their feet, too. It felt like a collective celebration, and it was a richly deserved one.
Read on The Guardian website.