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Seen and Heard Concert Review

 

 

Haydn, Mahler, Bartók: Philharmonia Orchestra cond, Esa-Pekka Salonen; Matthias Goerne (baritone) Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 19.12. 2006  (ME) 

 

Haydn, Symphony No, 8 in, Le soir

Mahler, Rückert Lieder

Bartok, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste

 

An interestingly constructed programme, with the longest work given before the interval instead of forming the second part, the two less ‘popular’ works framing a Rückert Lieder which set new standards in intensity, depth of interpretation and innovative yet scrupulously attentive performance style.

 

Haydn’s 8th Symphony, often called La tempestà after its final movement, is chiefly remarkable for its concertante parts for violins and ‘cello, here played with great finesse, especially in the Andante where the duet between bassoon and ‘cello was one of the high points of the evening. Salonen’s more-or-less ‘trademark style’ of making eighteenth century music sound as though it had been composed in 2002 was much in evidence here, the textures sharply delineated and the rhythms almost angular.

 

Bartók’s Music for Strings, percussion and Celeste is one of those pieces of 20th century music which one is told is an undisputed masterpiece, and which one feels one ought to be able to like. Salonen is clearly passionate about it, and he conveyed that passion to every section of the orchestra. The folkloristic second movement was the most convincing, with the pizzicato strings and harp to the fore, and the finale was a glorious swirl of orchestral colour and excitement, all rapturously received by a capacity audience.

 

That audience had not turned out in such force to hear Bartók, of course, their beloved Mahler being the main attraction. There is no doubt that Matthias Goerne has now fully assumed the mantle of the great ones of the past in his interpretation of this composer, whilst giving today’s audiences a reading which corresponds with our time in its troubling intensity and its tender inwardness. This is a performance which can truly be described as a ‘geschlossenes Kunstwerk’ in that it is at such a level that composition and interpretation are as one, and it leaves you with the feeling that there is nothing else to be said. ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’ was redolent with the sense of memory and loss, so tenderly suggested in the phrase ‘Wie lieblich war der Lindenduft’ with its slight but telling stress on ‘lieblich,’ and ‘Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!’ brimmed over with sly humour. The passionate ‘Liebst du im Schönheit’ was a paragon of expansive phrasing, characteristically golden tone and finely judged expressiveness.

 

‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’was taken at a quite daringly slow pace, and evoked a world of isolation, yet one replete with the secret joy of one whose rejection of the outside world is paralleled by a sustaining happiness. Goerne’s variety of tone     here was masterly, from the almost ‘white’ at ‘ob sie mich für gestorben hält’ to the embracing warmth of ‘in meinem Lieben, im meinem Lied.’ ‘Um Mitternacht’ was equally lugubrious in tempo, yet Goerne’s ability to convey both the subdued misery of the first three stanzas and the blazing passion of the final two, remained undiminished, with ‘in deine hand gegeben! / Herr! Über Tod und Leben’ conveying the ultimate sense of release. Goerne’s singing is beyond equal in these songs: without any recourse to over-statement or hand-wringing (verbal or physical) he simply states the lot of mankind, and invites us to observe it, with such a sense of inevitability that other interpretations seem almost shallow. In every phrase, Salonen was his equal and collaborator, shaping the music with clarity and affection: a magisterial showing in every way.

 

Melanie Eskenazi 

 




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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)