The David S Operaworld blog

A series of commentary on the world of opera and of serious music hopefully with links to items of broader cultural interest, correlation with the subject at hand. There is plenty of room here for a certain amount of clowning around and general irreverence - not exclusive to me - but of course no trollers or spam please. Blog for coverage of the BBC PROMS 2010 - with thoroughly proofread/upgraded coverage of the 2009 Proms and of much else.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ORF: DSO Berlin - Musikverein Mahler 7 - a wild, rocky road of it. Ingo Metzmacher. Dmitri Kavakos (Hartmann Con Funebre) - 12.03.10 - Wien

Ingo Metzmacher in March toured Europe with DSO Berlin, carrying with them Beethoven and Brahms concerti, Stravinsky’s Firebird complete and this program heard in Berlin five nights earlier, then again during this visit to the Musikverein. Metzmacher got called last fall to replace Kirill Petrenko on short notice to conduct a production at the Staatsoper of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It unequivocally became a great personal triumph. He has also programmed with the Vienna Philharmonic Nono, Messiaen, and for coming summer at Salzburg, a major Wolfgang Rihm world premiere, ‘Dionysos.’

Violinist Leonidas Kavakos helped open with the Concerto funebre by Karl Amadeus Hartmann – Metzmacher leading exponent of Hartmann’s music. Based on Hussite chorale – put through considerable transformation - this music was written partly in reaction to news of Hitler’s rape of Czechoslovakia – tragic event earlier the year this was written.

I only tentatively heard over the air the March 7th performance of this from Berlin. Between this and one at the Musikverein, it somewhat seemed the less direct, more ruminative – in contrast, for instance, with excellent broadcast on disc from Munich with Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Kubelik, openly informed by spirit of protest, but making use of the best musical rhetoric possible to get message across. Kavakos found slightly stronger profile for his often long-breathed rhapsodic lines during visit to the less diffuse Musikverein, with strings of DSO Berlin acutely sensitive, firmly supporting him. While tempos were still a little slower in Vienna than with Schneiderhan, Kavakos achieved very nearly as much. He prudently eschewed excess of vibrato - not to interfere with achieving fully specific expressivity for this music. Such was also true in making broad ascent to suspensions above the staff; his reach for numerous harmonics likewise exuded confidence.

Two simple chorale movements frame the twenty-minute concerto - the first a very brief, simple recitation of the Hussite chorale; the latter, to elaborate ascending obbligato by soloist, for string orchestra sounds –– very close (but embellished slightly) to ‘Eternal Memory’, of which Shostakovich made use some sixteen years later. In-between in character is the melodic line that frames the longer, slow rhapsodic second movement.

Kavakos very capably etched much repeated note writing and double stops with sharp, clean bow strokes through both the scherzo toccata and his freely spun out brief cadenza. He also allowed fine slack to open out fantasia in much of the rhapsodic and also frequently angular writing in the second movement. There was no sense of making empty display of the challenges to technique this writing holds forth. Hartmann’s good ear for what trends were occurring all about – the stringent classicism of Hindemith, the bi-tonalities and lush sonorities built upon them in the music of Bohuslav Martinu - was clear. Fleeting hint or two emerged here of jazz influence common to music by all three composers. Kavakos, sensitively supported by Metzmacher and DSO strings, gave this music a most eloquent voice.

Austrian Radio then unleashed the performance of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony to follow. Several minor lapses in ensemble, tentative accents occurred with this music in Berlin five days earlier, as though (after listening to how this got played in Vienna) DSO Berlin might have just undergone an intense dress rehearsal – thus vitality for repeating things so having become lost. A little more subtlety with dynamics seemed to be true in Berlin. Here in taking quite an angular approach to the Mahler Seventh is someone with a very thorough knowledge and mastery of what lies within - just slightly short on having fully internalized it all. The most subtle I have heard yet is Michael Gielen, from whom thirty years ago we could have expected an equally angular approach to this music.

This was a Mahler Seventh turned gently on its dark side, complemented by pairing it with the Hartmann concerto.. Metzmacher has too much fire in him to have settled for heavy wink and nudge on what, if left at that, can be the empty banalities of some passages in the Seventh. Neither was shortcut of characterizing each of its five movements as simply standing on its own, apart from all the rest, going to do either. One heard all in this piece of what prefigures what happens in the Ninth and Das Lied von der Erde - and thus what characteristics of the Seventh strongly attracted Arnold Schoenberg to it as well. Re-listening to Sinopoli (DGG), it seems he had nearly same idea in mind as Metzmacher, but brought things to fruition instead through, so to speak, the back door – by taking the deconstructionist path.

In making any capital over the dissonant language in middle to late Mahler, both Metzmacher and Sinopoli both eschew making anything two dimensional out of this music. With neither is found any hatchet job nor untoward asperity with Mahler’s chord structures, harmonies - as learned from Juilliard, period movement, or elsewhere. Sinopoli at times goes out of his way to bask in some of this music’s most lush sonorities, at times as to make this music sound detached this way - almost as though about to float out in space. Metzmacher maintains the better simplicity in his approach. In reaching far beneath this music, yet without ever distorting rhythm or form, Metzmacher consistently made one hear well many deep overtones emanate.

Even at clearly forward moving pace, Metzmacher revealed greater interest from the outset than just taking on the Seventh in merely a linear modernist way. The doleful character of tenor horn playing his opening solo with deep tone made this readily apparent. Metzmacher made anticipated steep transition into the Exposition - heroic in stance - with alternate broadening and tightening of thirty-seconds in the heavy equine dotted rhythms, between strings, including their accented, grizzled trills on downbeats, and brass making their way throughout all this. The slowdown into the ardent second theme stopped short of becoming conspicuous; rubato reliant upon wide arpeggi in lower strings beneath sounded mildly inhibited. With Metzmacher only taking risk of excessively breaking apart overall line, development of material from here on out sounded stressed as to working out much of the figuration therein - up to the very still, quiet pastoral interlude evocatively reminiscent of similar in the Sixth Symphony.

Metzmacher purposefully made this interlude sound curiously earthbound, then on high flutes making marked anticipation of flowing episode (‘Sehr breit’) - at last expansively opening out the second theme. A little much was then unexpectedly made out of jagged descent in the violins, as always is. The marking of ‘a tempo, fliessend’ for this seldom gets picked up as soon as indicated. It denies the power of Mahler’s ‘leidenschaftlich’ marking primarily for violins a page later to speak. Metzmacher however made up very well for the faux pas by avoiding obvious trap of bringing this music to a full stop right before final push through the coda, where only one measure of slowdown is marked.

Though making transitions during the recapitulation exaggeratedly arched, disjunct, such risk-taking made for a very adventuresome feel for highly driven narrative on display. This, having come off for ninety percent thereof not sounding affected, made things very clear that DSO Berlin had things starting off in highly exemplary fashion.

Nachtmusik I opened, consistent with all happening before, ominously in solo french horn, with jagged sectioning off of woodwinds’ concertato to follow. The concertato just missed ultimate subtlety in contrasts of dynamics - French horns then warmly, resonantly introducing main march theme to this movement. DSO Berlin achieved fine ardor for Schumann flavored first trio section with flexible expanding out of sonorities where needed and subtle infusion of angst well underneath its surface. Such angst became overt in the ascending line for violins during later reprise of this - consistent with the very precise pointing of dissonances and equally on purpose misplaced accents from especially lower instruments in preceding march. Dissonant intrusions into simple melodic allusion to village marching band and folk idioms helped make for - through such intervention - how Mahler, quasi-Ivesian, points the way ahead for very progressive trends to come, even in simplest of contexts. Much plaintive and spectral was then made out of the brief second trio section. In and out of shadows the rest of this inexorably and steadily moved along, through klezmer march in strings with malevolent obbligato triplets in high descant clarinet to dovetail off – plus much else.

Very purposefully on less steady footing was ‘Schattenhaft’ (‘shadowy’), the truly menacing scherzo and central movement to palindrome before us. It became clear to anyone in the know that Metzmacher had complete grasp of how center of gravity is in pacing this; he just had to make entirely sure that it would be hard for anyone listening in to sense it. Even from Sinopoli, I am not sure I have heard a more sinister take on this than what got heard on this occasion. Push on timpani in getting into this, without so obvious lilt that one gets elsewhere, was very sinister. Discreet, but eerie separations were made between many strands of running triplets in dry-toned violins. Inebriated step in solo viola was very cleverly, subtly anticipated just past opening of the naïve sounding start to the Trio - to destabilize everything ahead of time.

Common refrain in D Major throughout was played light - disingenuously so as though not sensing that whole context was anything but. Icy glissandi down in violins, copied then in lower strings were allowed plentiful space to all be clearly heard, making for most unusually disturbing effect. Seemingly wind driven tentative viola solo and following triplet runs in the strings during lightly scored but very dark reprise of outer section made vast empty infernal space out of it all. What humor exists here still received its due; it just had to throw everybody out of their comfort zone for none of it at all to be underlined; none of it was.

One found mild measure of relief during Nachtmusik II, but with Metzmacher uninhibited to clarify melodic writing therein for it to sound consistent with what would spin out into the linear counterpoint of late period Mahler and Schoenberg. Varied color of mandolin and guitar, combined, contrasting with other instrumentation, enhanced this virtue. DSO cellos ardently poured forth start to this serenade’s middle section. Proceeding forth, it eventually filled out with heavy angst only threatening to weigh things down. Consistently moderate pacing throughout this made a difference. Angular shape was made of agitated violin section stretto anticipating final gentle reprise of first theme without the playing losing resonance by making edge too sharp out of cut-offs to any of its strands. Asperity got saved for brief duet of mandolin and muted solo horn that unwittingly could have been mistaken for muted trumpet – a most surreal effect. In atmosphere of saturated but never sentimentalized melos, this serenade ended with full reception of its vernally fresh sonorities sustaining all to a highly fragrant close.

Spinning this Seventh forth toward dizzying conclusion was the robustly handled finale. After having had to traverse over numerous rocky precipices, being sent out into remote places, and also spun madly about in especially the scherzo to the Seventh, Mezmacher offered no reassurance at the Musikverein of being about to be treated to any safe ride through this mock-grandiose among Mahler finales. Urban hubbub in now harsh relief of the simple light of day, with robust rhythmically tight handling of interlocking episodes, became mildly oppressive, but. with energy left in check for searing handling of the visitation of macabre caravan from the first movement. Metzmacher especially in Vienna made harsh and fully resonant at once this passage’s searing dissonances.

Blend and clash of pan-diatonic buildup, immersion of sonorities - framed by euphonious chorales from Byzantine toned DSO brass - highlighted unapologetically the continual stream of progressivism driving so much here. Witty references to Der Meistersinger and Lehar spoke for themselves, as did forthrightly rough peasant dance and frolic. Spun forth trills in operetta mode high violins ending on cadence in carnival like solo flute provided fleeting moment of wit; most deliciously enfant terrible was the very light pointing of solo divisi violins back in operetta mode, coming off the ‘first movement caravan’ episode, as though so little had just transpired. Metzmacher brought the coda to euphonious close, but as after having covered much steep terrain, very prudently matter-of-fact. Clear lines had been maintained through such vortex - underneath the surface much of the Seventh is – toward an enthralling conclusion.

A few subtleties missed - optimum gradations of dynamics included - in this Mahler was ultimately small price to pay for what transpired here. Metzmacher will find the lighter touch for the Seventh as his interpretative powers grow more seasoned over time, such as with Gielen’s on disc (Hannsler) - most highly recommended. Risk-taking, wild adventure, providing meager comfort zone to fall back on, spoke very loudly indeed. Making anything stilted or cheaply two-dimensional out of Mahler’s all-encompassing vision here got avoided as well. It all spoke eloquently in multifaceted colors of a very unique encounter with this piece - unlikely easy to soon replace by anyone else doing this. Even the Philharmonic can not surpass this.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

free counters