Royal Festival Hall, London
Given that the Simón Bolívar Symphony Symphony Orchestra's ethos is so integrally linked to ideas of cultural regeneration, it seemed appropriate that the final concert of their London visit with Gustavo Dudamel should open with something new.
Esteban Benzecry's Rituales Amerindios is an evocation of pre-columbian deities of wind, water and thunder, conceived on a colossal scale and geared to the Bolívars' ability to generate formidable sonic weight, as well as to their exceptional technical prowess. It's also likely, however, to divide opinion. Even though the music pulverises, its eclecticism is also very apparent. The influence of Bartók, Stravinsky and, above all, Prokofiev in primitivist-constructivist mode is too overt. The playing dazzles, but the piece itself is at times unoriginal.
Another enormous work, Strauss's Alpine Symphony came after the interval. Once again, the decibel count was immense and the playing immaculate. Conducting from memory, Dudamel gave us a measuredinterpretation that compensated for an occasional lack of excitementat the start with some extraordinary things in the second half, whereStrauss uses extended chromatic suspensions to suggest the constantlyshifting perspectives with which he views natural landscapes.
Shortly before the concert, meanwhile, rumours began circulating that there was to be an appearance by a "celebrity guest". And when we reached encore time, Bryn Terfel arrived on the platform in old-fashioned Wotan gear – fur cloak, horned hat, eyepatch and spear – to deliver Abendlich Strahlt from Wagner's Das Rheingold, at several points causing concern that the violinist sitting behind him would be clobbered by the aforementioned spear, which Terfel waved horizontally. The orchestral textures were strikingly lucid rather than heavy. There was a standing ovation when it was over.
"I am very happy with the ease and versatility with which I can share my content with my audience, clients and business partners alike."