French orchestral music at Brighton Dome from the early twentieth century, the first night of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2015/6 residency at Brighton Dome. Claude Debussy worked on La Mer whilst at Eastbourne, nearby to Brighton along the coast of the English Channel. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Robin Ticciati gave us a spirited and stormy account consistent with today’s weather: evocative of sharp showers and low visibility on the Channel rather than the grandeur, majesty and depths of the oceans.

La Mer was the final item in the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert. Starting rousingly enough with Gabriel Fauré’s Suite, Pelléas et Mélisande, the piece was over-shadowed by conductor Robin Ticciati’s request for a one-minute silence to follow the end of the music in commemoration of recent events in Paris and Beruit.

Louis Schwizgebela’s stunning piano technique in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major was matched by clean and virtuosic performances from the orchestra, including the crucial dialogues with the wind section. The piano seemed to be tuned disturbingly bright, emphasising the atonal aspects of Ravel’s score. The acoustic of Brighton Dome is analytical and intimate, so the orchestra was clearly on its best behaviour with little hint of letting its hair down for a jam session in the style of American jazz. Louis Schwizgebela responded to a warm reception with a dazzling solo encore.

Robin Ticciati was conducting in his most expressive and acrobatic style for Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales; the London Philharmonic Orchestra again finding it difficult to let its hair down; although accurate, the waltzes seemed quite rigid with no hint of swing. The same really for La Mer, a very accurate performance but no sense of the lilt of the salty waves.

Fantastic to have an orchestra as accomplished at the London Philharmonic in residency at Brighton Dome, it will be interesting to hear how they settle in to the Brighton environment.

Fauré Suite, Pelléas et Mélisande
Ravel Piano Concerto in G major
Ravel Valses nobles et sentimentales
Debussy La mer

Robin Ticciati conductor
Louis Schwizgebel piano
London Philharmonic Orchestra