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The Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)
Leichte Kavallerie: overture (1866) [7:55]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K 453 (1784) [31:12]+
Le Nozze di Figaro, K492 (1786): Act 2: Porgi amor [4:02]*. Act 3: E Susanna non vien! … Dove sono [8:12]*
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Kunstler-Leben, Op. 316 (1867) [9:52]
Annen-Polka, Op. 117 (1852) [4:14]
Die Fledermaus: overture, Op. 362 (1874) [8:52]
*Dorothea Roschmann (soprano)
+Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
The Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst
rec. Carnegie Hall, New York, 4 October 2006. DDD
Video Director: Brian Large.
Sound formats PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1.
Picture format NTSC 16:9.
Subtitle languages for Figaro: D, F, GB, I. 
Disc format DVD 9.
Region code 0 (worldwide).
EUROARTS 2056578 [76:13]
 

 


Here’s the all-Viennese gala evening which began the 2006 Carnegie Hall season.

First the Light Cavalry overture with plenty of spit and polish in its brightly sonorous opening, taut and exciting strings’ ostinato against brass fanfares. Franz Welser-Möst achieves a perky allegro (tr. 2 2:41), racy enough to make the allegretto brillante of the following famous trumpet tune seem even jollier in its relative relaxation. By contrast again it grins from ear to ear on its return after the andantino con moto (4:59) is expressed as a commanding aria for rich strings. There’s just a spicing, unmarked but effective, of acceleration in the coda. You witness the crispness and clarity of Welser-Möst’s beat and his concern in the aria to keep the phrasing flowing.

Mozart comes next with a refined and exquisite approach to Piano Concerto 17 by Welser-Most, fully mirrored by the soloist Leif Ove Andsnes. The opening is light, sweet and quite intimate with the second theme (tr. 3 9:49 in continuous timing) having a simple grace. The piano entry adds a touch of playfulness to the mix but is always sensitively balanced with the orchestra, never dominating. The third theme (12:01), which the piano introduces, has an open, carefree gracefulness. The development (14:15) provides a suave element of mystery but in the recapitulation it’s back to a mellifluous parade of themes and enviable ease of pianism. Mozart’s cadenza shimmers delicately in Andsnes’ hands, the dynamic contrasts stylishly unforced.

I compared the 1981 recording by Leonard Bernstein, piano-conductor with the Vienna Philharmonic (Euroarts 2072098, review). Here are the actual music timings:


Timings   

   I   

II

III     

Total

Andsnes/Welser-Möst

 11:44

  9:43

 7:15

 28:42

Bernstein

 12:33 

 12:35

 7:55

 33:03

There’s more sense of fun in Bernstein’s account and also more vigour in the tuttis. Yet there’s also more relaxation and emphasis on lyricism. The piano presentation of the third theme is especially pointed and characterful. Bernstein takes the cadenza more slowly, 1:51 against Andsnes 1:18, giving it more of a spontaneous thinking aloud quality, but Andsnes deftly deploys more marked tempo fluctuations to the same end. Welser-Möst is faster and lighter, the sound leaner, relatively unconcerned with vigour, something I miss. Andsnes’ Steinway piano has a more crystalline sound than Bernstein’s mellower Bösendorfer yet Andsnes tempers this with his smooth touch. His blending with the orchestra is a joy as is his presentation of the third theme, less extrovert than Bernstein’s but wonderfully balanced and self-contained.

With Andsnes/Welser-Möst the ambivalence of the slow movement comes across more strongly. The woodwind offer a serene meditation but the strings’ later backing is darker, partly because he has 5 double basses to Bernstein’s 4. Andsnes’ opening solo is eloquent and quite elegiac, leading readily to the following more dramatic material. His conversation with bassoon, oboe and flute is a happy phase, after which his demisemiquavers ripple down like flotsam. But more memorable is the still solemnity of his solo interlude in D minor (tr. 4 25:03), suddenly starkly probing more fearful territory and he maintains his gaze while presenting fluently. In Mozart’s cadenza Andsnes contrasts outward display and inner meditation in playing of great sensibility. His tempo fluctuations here suggest that to be effective Mozart’s Andante marking for the movement has to be treated flexibly. Bernstein makes a case for a considerably more expansive, Adagietto like approach because the argument thereby emerges more lucidly. For instance, when the woodwind brighten the piano’s darker mood of the latter part of his opening solo, Bernstein agrees gently with them.

To the finale’s theme Welser-Möst brings an easy, genial lightness, more graceful than Bernstein’s skipping. The first variation (tr. 4 31:34) Andsnes gives a free-flowing buoyancy. He’s trippingly mercurial in the second variation (32:18) alongside neatly bright woodwind and urbane strings where Bernstein is more buoyant. The Andsnes/Welser-Möst third variation (33:00) is delightfully florid in a genteel way, where Bernstein is more chirpy. The fourth variation (33:47) in G minor from Andsnes/Welser-Möst has a suave mystique, more exotic than Bernstein’s sad phase to be faced. Welser-Möst begins the fifth variation (34:41) purposefully, a mood Andsnes gradually wipes away. Bernstein’s orchestra begins it perkily but his piano closes it gently. The closing scamper of the coda (35:51) is airily articulated by Andsnes/Welser-Möst. Bernstein provides more bite.

In Welser-Möst’s DVD here enters Dorothea Roschmann as a passionate Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. Her cavatina opening Act 2, Porgi amor, is sorrowful yet resilient, matching the strength of resolve and tender, however fragile hope of the orchestral introduction. It’s heartfelt and affectingly sung but, perhaps inevitably in a concert setting, not as intimate nor with the soft, pure tone of Renée Fleming in the DVD of the 1994 Glyndebourne stage version with the London Philharmonic/Bernard Haitink (NVC Arts 0630-14013-2). At 4:23 this has more contemplative breadth than Roschmann’s actual music time of 3:34.   The dramatic recitative E Susanna non vien in Act 3 gets volatile, fiery treatment from Roschmann, 1:45 against Fleming’s 2:12 and Welser-Möst provides vivid orchestral support. The aria Dove sono begins with more melting tone from Roschmann and flowing line but it’s rather thrust forward for Andantino, former pleasures more fully projected and experienced than Fleming’s steadier tempo, taking 5:20 against Roschmann’s 4:28. Fleming’s rapt consideration of the happy past is almost like a lullaby and her Allegro more hopeful section from ‘Ah! Se almen’ is more contrasted than Roschmann’s (tr. 7 48:29) though that is lighter in tone.

This DVD concert ends with three Strauss items. First the waltz sequence Kunstler-Leben. The introduction offers smooth caresses from oboe, clarinets and horns with cellos in turn and then a gentle build up to a sprightlier version of that opening oboe theme which proves to be that of Waltz 1 (tr. 7 53:28). This is lightly and shiningly articulated, the repeat of the second part taken a little faster. Waltz 2 (54:31) is more dreamy but still lustrous and presented with deft variations of tempo: slightly slower when quieter, faster when louder, these contrasting characteristics developed a degree further on repeat. Throughout Welser-Möst makes the repeats subtly different.

Waltz 3 (55:47) has a richer, more wistful dreaminess, then a buoyant section. Waltz 4 (56:47) is more deferential, more delicately engaged, yet with the contrast of sunny glints of brass enjoyed. Waltz 5 (57:59) has a more confident delicacy with a touch of swagger but the second part is deliciously lightly articulated which makes it particularly endearing, especially the piccolo and flute embellishments which seem to look forward to Malcolm Arnold cocking a snook. The coda (59:05) brings an entertaining final parade of the waltzes of considerable charm. There’s an engaging lightness of articulation, sunny tone and overall demeanour which makes this performance a sheer delight. Welser-Möst’s gestures vary between graceful lilt and crisp twirl, with particular affection shown for Waltz 3.

Annen-Polka is structurally like a microcosm of the waltz sequence with a gentler charm within its comfortable saunter, but again with contrasted sections and Welser-Möst achieving skilful fluctuations of tempo in repeated passages. So while the notes are the same the perspective you get is slightly changed.

Finally Die Fledermaus overture is delivered with delectable finesse. The oboe offers a melting slow version of the opening theme. The second theme (tr. 10 67:24) luxuriates warmly on the first violins while the third (67:57) finds their graceful strutting gently easing at the phrase endings, just a momentary halt of Welser-Möst’s hand. This moulding by the conductor gives the theme individuality and style and paves the way for what then appears to be its natural musing expansion. The Tempo di Valse section (68:52) is lightly crisp while the Andante (70:04) finds the oboe, then clarinet and cello gazing more expressively while the violins’ sighs cut across whimsically. Time here expanded is brought lightly back to order. 

Here then is a satisfying variety of Viennese pieces. It makes you ponder how Mozart can be just as charming as the others yet also probe more deeply.

Michael Greenhalgh

 

 

 


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