What a great idea! A Sunday morning concert. Clearly
the people of Kiel and its catchment area think so too for the 1100
seater 1970s designed hall was about 97% full. Demand was high and there
was a bustle around the ticket office with some season ticket holders
offering discounted tickets for the concert. We bought two front row
stall (Parkett) tickets for €30 when the full price was €54.
Often in the UK front-row tickets are undesirable as so many concert
platforms are at eye-level when you are seated. Here the concert platform
is raised by only an inch or so from the stalls floor-level. Conductor
and players are set back from the audience by about a couple of metres.
The orchestra was unusually arranged. The string layout was left to
right, first and second violins and then cellos and then violas. This
configuration was kept for the second half of the concert though clearly
the stage was more amply filled, not to say crowded, for the Strauss.
The Mozart was lovingly done with (I think) all repeats in place.
This was a fine classical interpretation and one that I found grandly
moving. The clarity of the parts and the realms of fantasy found by
Fritsch and the Kiel orchestra made this a memorable experience with
some surprising pre-echoes of Dvořák. The orchestra was
pitched at about forty players. To give you some idea of scale there
were four violas for the Mozart and ten for the Strauss.
After the intermission came the Richard Strauss pieces. Don Juan
is much better known than Macbeth. It is stronger and the
sequencing would have been improved if the order of the tone poems had
In place of the pristine clarity and powerfully disciplined surge of
the Jupiter Fritszch's Don Juan was done exuberantly.
However when at full tilt the orchestral sound blurred into a more generalised
effect. Granted it is a glorious noise but a more analytical result
might have been possible if the parts had been rebalanced ... either
that or I have been spoilt by years of artificially contrived 'perfection'
on CD. Recalling another live Don Juan in 1998 I was reasonably
sure that the sound can be more clearly rendered. This was certainly
the case during the winter 1998 season when it was given by Libor Pešek
and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.
Fritzsch however gave a most exciting performance brimming with exultation.
The work glowed convincingly during Konzertmeister, Rüdiger Debus's
pewter silvery amorous serenade, in the voluptuous playing of Neil Fellows'
horns and in the shivering decay into which the piece falls in its closing
pages. Fritsch would, on this showing, have made an outstanding job
of Elgar's In the South. Another might-have-been.
It is a long time since I heard Macbeth - and then only on CD:
Kempe and the Staatskapelle Dresden on EMI. I could not remember anything
of it. The work is pretty determinedly dark with the usual Strauss caprice
but otherwise rather over-boiled. A little restraint (Strauss was not
good at this during his green years) would have made this much more
effective. A good example of this is the repetitive use of gong strokes
towards the end - over the top. Fritzsch gave a noble reading catching
the bitterness and skulduggery of the Shakespeare original. Thank heavens
that Strauss resisted the temptation he had fallen victim to in Aus
Italien where traditional songs appeared. In the case of Macbeth
there is no shortcake Tartan of the type that saps the life from Bruch's
Scottish Fantasia. I would tend to bracket this with Tchaikovsky's
Hamlet (a better piece) and Liszt's Héroïde Funèbre.
Meantime I am grateful to Fritzsch and Kiel for the chance to hear this
rare piece in a performance that meant business.
Fritzsch conducted with eloquent and stylish sweep using a baton and
with generous though not exaggerated gestures. He conducted the whole
concert without score. His gestural approach stands at the other end
of the range from German conductors I have heard in years gone by. He
has none of the stiff minimalist puppetry of Volker Wangenheim - very
fine, all the same, in Bruckner. Here is a man who conveys enjoyment
but has none of the personality overload of a Bernstein or a Karajan.
He has a distinguished appearance looking uncannily like Mahler with
those spectacles, that profile and high forehead.
We had some trouble finding the Schloß. It definitely does not
look like a castle. It is not sign-posted or if there are signs we didn't
find them. The thing to do is to aim for the Kunsthalle. The Schloß
is part of the same complex just on the land-ward side of the Kaistraße
near the Ostseekai (where ferries leave for the Baltic) and the free
entry Schiffahrtsmuseum. It is also nonchalantly close to Kiel's red
Having spent two days wandering around Kiel, commuting the 35 minutes
train ride from Rendsburg, I can recommend two eating places. For excellent
inexpensive cooked meals (fish a speciality - superb scholl - plaice,
I think - for €12.50) try the bar meals at the Kiellinie just across
the road and down the hill towards the sea from the Konzertsaal. It
is near the pedestrian bridge over the road between the Kunsthalle and
seafront/dockside. The Kiellinie also has friendly service though perhaps
a bit slow. Kiellinie Restaurant Bar, Duerstenbrooker Weg 2, 0431 578855.
For dessert try wandering into town and the main pedestrianised area.
Eiscafe Toscanini (I jest not!) has excellent coffee for €2.20 and a
great selection of frighteningly enticing ice creams at €4.60. Eiscafe
Toscanini is at Holstenstraße 86, 24103 Kiel. Service is rather
unsmiling but is very quick and attentive.
This review was a spin-off from a visit to my son who is taking the
third year of his languages and politics degree at Lancaster University.
The third year involves staying in Germany as an assistant teacher at
a secondary school in Rendsburg. Rendsburg is a largish town in North
Germany, not all that far from the Danish border. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein
which for centuries was fought over with Denmark. The town lies on the
Nord-Ostsee Kanal between Lübeck and Kiel. Kiel is a 35 minute
train ride away. Both Lubeck and Hamburg are about 90 minutes away by