Pick a noun to evoke an autumn on the Baltic coast, and you might settle on "a gust". Translate that to the French un coup de vent, and you get an adverbial expression (en coup de vent) that might be used to say: to pop by, to dash off, to complete a task swiftly. It's the perfect expression for the Orchestre de Paris who, clad in dresses, suits and matching wide ties for the men, produce a dynamic sound to match their slick attire. Estonian director Paavo Järvi whips things up with windmill gestures, sending the sound skywards on a Baltic wind.
Järvi soon takes up the baton at the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo, and his time with the Orchestre de Paris is coming to an end. The conductor leaves behind what is clearly a healthy relationship, where twinkling eye contact and beaming smiles illustrated a collective relish for music making. German pianist Lars Vogt joined the orchestra for a lithe rendition of Brahms's PianoConcerto no. 2 in B flat major, before Tchaikovsky's Symphony no. 5 provided a thrilling finale.
Brahms' mastery of blustery drama finds full expression in his Second Piano Concerto, where Vogt and the orchestra teamed up well to negotiate shifts between the tranquil and the tempestuous.
Earthen rusticity in the wooded orchestral introduction segued nicely into Vogt's prickly pine cone cadenza. A busy dialogue ensued, where Vogt's lyricism was cut short by the orchestra's haughty interruption. He produced a rollicking retort, before the pair reached a bashful reconciliation in coiling trestles.
As well as a pianist, Vogt is a budding conductor, having become Music Director of the Royal Northern Sinfonia earlier this month. He watched the Järvi closely, seeming to be intrigued by the conductor's craft, whilst such attentiveness also underlined a concern for the quality of the overall tapestry in this highly symphonic piano concerto. A resultant symbiosis produced gorgeous hues, with orchestra and piano intensifying particular tints on one another's palettes. Vogt impresses as a stand alone pianist too: after a ripe cello solo at the opening of the Andante, his rippling incantations mesmerised for their fluidity. His legato makes you wonder whether the piano is a bowed instrument instead of a hammered one after all, whilst his muscular physique has him turfing out ambrosial sonorities. The encore of Chopin's Nocturne no. 20 in C sharp minorwas unfathomably joined-up, and achingly expressive.
Having acquired a taste for this orchestra's abilities in the Brahms, the Tchaikovsky offered a closer look. There were soupy moments to savour: deep nostalgia for the opening of the first movement and throbbing chords in the second below a kindling solo horn. But most characteristic of this orchestra,with its low centre of gravity and a nippy engine in the rear, were the moments that flew off the page. The gushing theme that followed the solo horn waned in the breeze, spiralling high whenever it found a thermal. Järvi directed with one-in-a-bar rotations that swooshed upwards on the downbeats. He rustled up the sound, before letting it soar. Compact climaxes saw the conductor crouching low, shaking his entire body with a gesture that roared for more.
The third movement waltz was a particular high point for sheer fun. Tchaikovsky's implied sinister undertones slipped under the radar – just blithe enjoyment here, with the music pirouetting and steadying at the gathering points. There was a fiendish quality to the finale. Grins flashed across faces to whizzing strings, and Järvi and the lead violinist sparked up eye contact, enjoying plucked arpeggios like a guilty pleasure. Nobody overshot the target in the careening main theme. A compact sound zoomed at an unstoppable rate, brass entries rousing and strings whirling in a gale.