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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Oberon overture (1826) [10:22]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (1806) [39:55]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor Op. 68 (1876) [46:09]
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Bernard Haitink
rec. live, 29 September 2002, Kulturpalast, Dresden
Edition Staatskapelle Dresden – Volume 40
PROFIL PH09036 [50:25 + 46:09]

This rather sumptuously produced twofer – with its excellent and pictorially attractive documentation - preserves performances given at the Dresden Staatskapelle’s second symphony concert of the 2002-03 season. It was Haitink’s first subscription concert as Principal Conductor of the orchestra, a position he took on after Sinopoli’s sudden death the previous year.

This is volume 40 in this long-running series and preserves a solid and meaty programme. The opening Weber Oberon overture benefits from the spacious acoustic as well as sensitive phrasing and considerable attention to detailing in the lower brass; a performance emerges both exciting and controlled with flair channeled through precision. Though Frank Peter Zimmermann recorded the Beethoven Concerto with Jeffrey Tate and the ECO, he and Haitink were to record the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Concertgebouw in 2010. One finds care, refinement, and corporate sonority – these are givens from the orchestra – and Zimmermann brings his cultured elegance to the proceedings. The watchwords are articulacy and thoughtfulness; note the pointing of the horn harmonies and the avoidance of asperity. The slow movement is prayerful and serene and if the finale is not as fully buoyant as others, not as biting rhythmically or as avuncular a release from the generous intensity of that slow movement, it is of a piece with the performance as a whole.

Brahms’s First Symphony occupies the second disc, a work very familiar from Haitink’s concert and studio legacies, given that he has recorded multiple examples of the complete symphonic cycle. What is individual is the quality of the orchestral soloists – the very personal tone of the clarinet principal, the excellent cello section, the rich violas, the solid bass-up sound cultivation. The sonority is powerful but never saturated; the horn solos, and that of the orchestra’s concertmaster, remain on a high level. Haitink’s balancing of the orchestral choirs is first class, his interpretation without quirks or peccadillos.

This is a live performance and audience applause has been retained. So, too, have those moments of foot-stamping and other noises that are the inevitable corollary of live music-making. They merely add to the intensity of the occasion.

Jonathan Woolf 

Previous review: Michael Cookson



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