Review: Lutoslawski Jeux vénitiens \ Symphony No. 3 \ RCM Symphony Orchestra \ Franck Ollu \ QEH

Lutoslawski Jeux vénitiens
Debussy Nocturnes
Lutoslawski Symphony No. 3
Roussel Bacchus et Ariane, Suite No. 2

Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Franck Ollu


Taking some time to reflect on a performance seems preferable to rushing a review hours after the orchestra has left the platform. There’s a chance to let the more memorable moments bubble up to the surface – far easier than the process of straining to make out the original meaning of the notes you scribbled down surreptitiously (or maybe not so) in the auditorium.

So it is with this review of the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra who performed works by Lutoslawski, Debussy and Roussel on Wednesday 6 January 2013 as part of the ongoing Woven Words festival.

Student bands make for a far more involving performance. Not everything will be perfect and as a listener you get to hear the technique and tone of performers who are in development. That in itself doesn’t make for a poor performance. Quite the opposite in fact. It will highlight those areas where performers confront challenging music. For the newcomer, gaining as near first hand experience of what’s difficult and what’s not is as fulfilling an experience as hearing a performance that has been polished within an inch of its life. It also means the listener will invest more in the efforts each performer commits. To put it bluntly: we’re all going on a journey together.

The Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra delivered at every stage in the concert. Lutoslawski’s Jeux vénitiens written for 29 solo instruments with its rich multi-layered cataclysmic middle sandwiched between the taut delicacy of the outer ‘movements’ demonstrated once again the composer’s obvious ease at pushing the boundaries of texture.

The link with Debussy – one of a handful of composers who inspired the young Lutoslawski – and his impressionistic textures was therefore subsequently obvious even if his three movement Nocturnes performed second in the programme did at times feel like a curious piece of confectionary in comparison.

Lutoslawski’s third symphony (written between 1972 and 1983) illustrated still further his mastery of orchestration, at times treading a fine line between interesting and almost grating at times. This was undoubtedly the work that pushed the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra the furthest during the concert. Little wonder all on the platform applauded self-effacing conductor Franck Ollu so warmly when the performance was over. Well deserved, and once again a tantalising invitation to explore the work and his composing technique further.

Special mention should also go to the concert stage managers whose resetting of the stage between the Jeux venitiens and Nocturnes was completed perfectly in a breathtaking 2’26”. No mean feat.


Woven Words continues on Thursday 7 March at the Royal Festival Hall in a concert given by the Philharmonia Orchestra. The programme includes Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto and Concerto for Orchestra and begins at 7.30pm.

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