Review-Kiel Philharmonic-Carnival of the Animals and Poulenc Concerto

Rapturous Squirrels! By Christian Strehk

Philharmonic “junior” concert with the brilliant Naughton piano duo in Kiel Castle.

Kiel.  It is likely that the average age in a philharmonic concert has never been as low as it was yesterday morning, when GMD Georg Fritzsch lured many families with children to the Carnival of the Animals. The artistic offering was in no way diminished by being labeled “junior”, however, since US piano duo, the Naughton sisters, played magnificently and effortlessly.

Always superb, Camille Saint-Saens’ fluttering, apish, swaggering, nimble scurrying “great zoological fantasy” Carnival of the Animals is and will remain an amusing acoustic adventure. Provide, that is, that the “stork with a baton” in charge can overcome the technical hurdles with a small and responsive group of top instrumentalists and create the right atmosphere. Ultimately, General Music Director Georg Fritzsch and his small but excellently cast Philharmonic orchestra succeeded without question in the castle, which was jam-packed for once. Sky du Mont, in every respect a renowned actor, captured the spirit of Loriot’s exquisite text by expertly modifying his striking narrator’s voice, always allowing it to resonate with ironic timing and saving it from pure naivety.

However, the two imported “squirrels” who scampered effortlessly along their keys that were the most fun: the US twins Christina and Michelle Naughton are an amazingly cool team, absolutely perfectly coordinated, technically brilliant, at times rousing and at others highly sensitive. They evinced the lion’s paw, then in the very next moment allowing the wind to rustle through the ostrich’s feathers. It was truly stunning how the water bubbled under their fingers in Aquarium, or the night water began to glisten, over which Frauke Rottler-Viain’s cello sent an extremely noble swan gliding.

The US girls also provided highlights before the intermission. In the opening movement of the Concert for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D-Minor by Francis Poulenc, they immediately achieved the acutely sharp rhythmical relentlessness that the composer attempted to portray in his own recording of the work. Fritzsch’s Philharmonic orchestra showed itself to be alert and attentive here. On the other hand, Maurice Ravel’s preceding historical dancing set in the Grand Nation’s Baroque past (in Le Tombeau de Couperin) seemed somewhat woolly and, in view of the for the most part too young audience, unnecessary, in spite of some beautiful points. That said, Mozartean magic unfolded in Poulenc’s slow movement and the finale slid from frenzy to daydream and back again. The American pianists intensified the well-deserved thunderous applause with their encore: Scaramouche by Darius Milhaud. In conclusion: there are a lot more happy faces in the Kiel area since yesterday – across all ages.

Flaco Zacarias