Logically enough, the Orchestre National de Lille and music director Jean-Claude Casadesus chose a heavily French program for their Kennedy Center Concert Hall debut Sunday afternoon. Their choice was wise, for Lalo's Overture to "Le Roi d'Ys" and Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" provided plenty of opportunity for a display of their strengths: a disciplined, cohesive and well-blended string section; marvelous woodwinds, particularly in the solo chairs; and resplendent trumpets and french horns.
Conductor Casadesus brought little new in the way of interpretation to these works, but, especially in the case of the Berlioz symphony, his careful attention to the composer's own detailed directions in the score led to an exemplary reading of a work that is a challenge for any orchestra. Most noteworthy was the third movement, which had just the proper tinge of melancholy while retaining a clear sense of musical direction and shape.
The remainder of the program was given over to Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with soloist Ivo Pogorelich. While Pogorelich's blazing power and technique and his amazing range of articulation and dynamics were extremely impressive, his eccentric interpretation all but obliterated the structure and logic behind this wonderful example of romantic virtuosity and tenderness. Conductor and orchestra did their best to follow Pogorelich's lead, but his attempt at a fresh approach to this noble warhorse simply failed to come off.