Zachary Lewis
“(…) Aptly labeled “French Connections” by the program’s title, conductor Stéphane Denève and pianist Cédric Tiberghien treated Blossom Music Center to expert, scintillating performances of works by four French masters. (…)

Denève, meanwhile, made an excellent partner, punctuating Tiberghien’s statements in the opening Andante with weighty, ominous marks. Elsewhere, by contrast, he simply supported his colleague, mimicking the soloist’s weightlessness and whipping up a tempest in the Presto to augment the pianist’s already ardent hailstorm.

Debussy’s “La Mer” afforded even greater insight into Denève’s artistry. That the conductor, former music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, recorded the work recently, along with the rest of Debussy’s orchestral music, was abundantly clear from the insightful, engaging performance he elicited. (…)

Denève immersed himself in Debussy’s restless, ever-changing music. Certain elements were consistent: suavity, taut dynamics, exceptional refinement. But whether the musical currents ran strongly or gently, whether the waves were rollers or whitecaps, were moment-by-moment decisions. (…)

Animation also was the calling-card of Denève’s account of Berlioz’s Overture to “Les Francs-juges.” The opera itself never saw the light of day, but the Overture on Saturday received a crackling, dramatic performance marked by precipitous shifts in dynamics and resplendent proclamations by the trombones.

(…) the ensemble under Denève literally danced the night away, sending off the crowd with a sumptuous performance that concluded in exactly the right spot: one step away from over the top.”

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