Les Violons Du Roy @ Troy Music Hall

Les Violons du Roy
Times Union

Les Violons du Roy, which was presented by Troy Chromatic Concerts on Tuesday night, may have taken its name from the famed string orchestra of French kings, but from the first notes of the concert, it was evident that the wind players were going to have a major role. Opening the concert with a suite from “Les Boréades” by Jean-Philippe Rameau, the French horns were immediately put to the test with typical brisk hunting-horn melodies, followed by beautiful playing by the oboes, and then proceeding in the second movement to the bassoon playing haunting descending phrases that the rest of the orchestra played sustained harmonic notes against. It was a sprightly and lovely way to begin a program.

The second half of the program featured pianist Marc-André Hamelin. First up was Mozart’s one movement “Concert-Rondo” in A Major, K. 386. Hamelin displayed the perfect touch for performing Mozart, exposing the clarity and misleading simplicity, the restraint, of his piano writing. Haydn’s “Concerto for Piano” in D Major closed the evening’s program, and while the piano writing had some of the same quality as the Mozart, Haydn created a thicker texture in places, without playing all that many more notes. It was an interesting contrast in two seemingly similar composers. Hamelin displayed the lightest of touches, and his cadenzas were scintillating, venturing into the higher register of the piano.

Les Violons is a chamber orchestra, observing the performance practices of the repertoire they play, with none of the rigidity that can occur. The playing was uniformly excellent, and the smaller size was effective in the way it was able to balance the wind players with the strings, allowing the oboes at times to play seemingly impossibly soft passages while everyone was playing. Conductor Mathieu Lussier brought out just the right qualities of the performers that were well suited to the works played.