Chez music as Britten Sinfonia go French

Britten Sinfonia returns for a spectacular celebration of Gallic musical creativity. EMILY ASPIN discovers they're getting musical inspiration from across the Channel.

With a variety of wind, brass, percussion, strings and a magnificent violin concerto, Concentric Paths – at Norwich Theatre Royal tomorrow — provides a refreshing, upbeat concert to banish those winter blues.

A French strand threads its way through this elaborate line-up as one of Europe's finest conductors Thomas Ad�s, leads the orchestra in works by Couperin, his own Three Studies on Couperin which contains harmonic sounds and spiralling high jinks, and of course Ravel's tribute to the memory of the French master.

The orchestra will also be playing Stravinsky's Air du Rossignol and Marche Chinoise and Stravinsky's Suite no 1 and no 2 for Small Orchestra.

Ad�s has made a name for himself in the music world through his dynamic, energetic and unpredictable methods of conducting, which will be demonstrated with a breathtaking opening solo performance of Couperin's kaleidoscopic and seductive Les Barricades Mist�rieuses.

Britten Sinfonia last worked with Ad�s on an all-English programme of music by Tippett, Birtwistle and Britten at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2004.

Sinfonia chief executive David Butcher can't praise Ad�s enough for his contribution to the orchestra.

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'You just have to hear all the top conductors, musicians, venue and festival programmers talking about him, talking about his music – such as his Violin Concerto which has been played all over the world – and you know that this is an artist to be very excited about indeed,' he says.

Not a stranger to the Theatre Royal stage or collaborating with Britten Sinfonia, Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto is famous for his tone and technique, infectious enthusiasm, fluidity and his imaginative musical interpretations. Pekka's success has seen him tour all over the world from the Czech Republic to Holland, via Australia and Canada.

The Sinfonia's association with the violinist has previously included a 13 date European tour of English and American music with Mark Padmore in 2010, and most recently, an acclaimed tour to South America. Pekka says: 'I don't play to be different or the same as anyone else, I just play it the way I think it and feel it.'

'When I direct, I get feedback straight from the musicians and develop individual relationships with them… It's the best way of ensuring there's good communication between everyone,' Pekka adds.

One of his admirers is current Britten Sinfonia leader and violinist Thom Gould who said: 'We always play well with Pekka, he is such an inspiring guy, and he brings out the best in us.'

David Butcher agrees. 'Pekka is a musician who likes to take risks, to explore different ways of expressing things, experimenting with bowing, intonation and so on,' he says.

'I know the musicians have had some brilliant times doing karaoke and jam sessions with him after gigs, on one occasion at Ronnie Scott's in London, and this relationship comes through in the performance.'

David is very excited about the latest Britten Sinfonia concert in Norfolk. 'Concentric Paths stands for everything that makes Britten Sinfonia unique,' he says. 'It is a collaboration between incredibly gifted artists, innovative and thought-provoking programming and music that spans old and new in a very exciting way'.

He paid tribute to the venue too.

'With Norwich Theatre Royal the team here is wonderful and you can count on them. This means we can focus on the performance and our audience, and not worry about running a venue. That makes it a real pleasure to perform here.'

? Britten Sinfonia's Concentric Paths, Norwich Theatre Royal, February 25, �26-�6.50, 01603 630000,

? A free pre-concert talk will take place in the auditorium at 6.30pm.