The BSO, under the baton of visiting French conductor, Stéphane Denève, harnessed this whirling beast with great aplomb, taking us for a lovely hurl towards the edge of Viennese culture — as seen by the French composer. I’ve never heard a more genuinely- paced rendition.
“The impression of fantastic and fatal whirling” — this is what Maurice Ravel had to say of composing La Valse in 1919. That’s all that remained after he’d first envisioned La Valse — the tone poem — back in 1906. What intervened? Only the cataclysm of World War I.
Imagine yourself, asking a lovely partner of the opposite sex to waltz, to step — while turning — with a leg directly between your own. Chances are, you’d get drunk first. Just like you do before you go out to bump and grind. Denève offered a most drunkenly-divine slowness to start this unholy ballroom dervish. There’s a flash of percussion promise, a swish of skirt riot from the woodwinds before the strings take up. Best of all, as this turbine cranked up to full devilry, the cellos were raw and randy. There was almost a Latin-like squaring off with the two string sections as things got steamy.