Editor: Marc Bridle
Len Mullenger: Len@musicweb-international.com
S & H Concert Review
Beethoven & Berlioz, Philharmonia
Orchestra, Lorin Maazel, RFH, 23rd January 2003 (MB)
Some years ago I reviewed Lorin Maazel in two concerts
with the Philharmonia Orchestra; to this day I cannot recollect attending
either. Yet on finding the reviews I appear to have given glowing notices
of both concerts – Mahler’s 5th and Bruckner’s 8th.
This is the first Philharmonia concert he has given in the interim (although
given my inability to recall a Maazel performance I may be wrong) and
although more than a week has passed since I attended it your reviewer
finds it difficult to recollect these performances too. I’ve never had
any difficulty remembering a sensational Mahler 2 which he gave with
the LSO so I wonder what causes these musical blackouts?
Maazel’s relationship with the Philharmonia goes back
decades and this may have something to do with it. Polished though the
performances of both the Eroica and the Symphonie fantastique
were (indeed, the playing was generally several notches better than
that I had heard from Barenboim’s Berliners in two Brahms concerts)
the interpretations were both languid and uninspiring, almost, indeed,
as if everything was being taken for granted. One could admire the performances
for what they were on the surface, but beyond that they were shallow
and lacked spontaneity. The Eroica, taken without the first movement
repeat, but feeling as if it had been taken, was measured yet gaunt.
A fleet performance of the ‘Funeral March’ dissipated much of the rawness
of Beethoven’s writing – even the fugal section lacked a certain gravitas.
The ebulliance of the Finale was somewhat underplayed.
Berlioz’s epic symphony – a work with which this reviewer
has continuing difficulty (almost totally due to the lack of an ideal
performance of the work) – wove between tedium and exhilaration. ‘A
scene in the Country’ was rather like a trip through the countryside
on the back of an ageing pony, whilst his ‘A Ball’ pedalled pedestrian
waltzes. ‘March to the Scaffold’ was taken too quickly, yet was exciting
even though. Only in the ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ did Maazel deploy any Berliozian
magic – at moments suitably grotesque and diabolical with appropriately
fine Philharmonia playing adding touches to the scene.
I’ve still to be convinced that Berlioz’ Symphonie
fantastique is as great a work as many people say it is and Maazel’s
performance hasn’t changed that perception. Ah, yes perception. Give
me an opiate induced interpretation which makes most of Berlioz’ hallucinatory
brilliance and your reviewer might in future have no difficulty recalling
the details of the performance. As it is, Maazel’s concert seemed the
epiphany of an unforgettable hangover.
Seen&Heard is part of
Webmaster: Len Mullenger
Return to: Seen&Heard
Music on the Web