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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DKR de: Berlin PO/Alan Gilbert. Emmanuel Ax, Christianne Stotijn. Berg lieder, I.S. Katschei musik the highlights. Philharmonie Berlin. 01.04.11

Contrasting sonorities, between concertato of winds and strings, more plentifully intermixed, intermeshed in Stravinsky’s Firebird – especially as played complete, seemed unifying theme to well varied program New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert conducted - also of Alban Berg lieder and Mozart concerto.

Christianne Stotijn made most distinctive, opulent soloist for the Seven Early Songs by Berg. Evenness of tone all across the range, fine bloom on often floating top, at once vivid and intimate painting of Romantic text by varied poets made all here clearly evoke shifting moods, lights, perspectives issuing forth. Mystery evoking barely lit night sky for reprise of beginning of the first song, ‘Nacht’ was haunting, Stotijn’s voice opening out more fully, beseechingly for the ‘Gib acht’s’ that frame crest to first stanza of this song and envelope its conclusion.

Gilbert and the Berliners became more openly engaging in accompanying the chamber ensemble accompanied ‘’Schilflied’ (Reed Song) with its more apparent clarity of texture, all to limn Stotijn’s intimated and yet full grasp of romantic yearning, longing this song more directly conveys. Febrile line from Stotijn opulently filled out ‘Die Nachtigall;’ ‘with for its quasi-operatic conception, Gilbert and string section of the Berlin Philharmonic sounded slightly retiring. Stotijn floated crests to the song’s broad line with fullness and ease. Lightly apprehensive conversational tone very knowingly filled out ‘Traumgekroent . It all worked toward Stotijn’s alternation of darkening and lightening of her tone, latter working toward ability to float very freely the soul-liberating high G - in engagement with image of night closing this song. Light interlude of ‘Im Zimmer’ (‘Indoors’) got intimately pointed, contrasting it with rich appoggiatura laden, rapturous ‘Liebesode’, betraying sense of deep longing underneath, fullness thereof grasped entirely on ‘so reich an Sehnsucht,’ its closing line.

For closing song, ‘Sommertage’, fully orchestrated, Gilbert became more openly engaging in his collaboration with Stotijn than with either one of two other fully orchestrated songs here. Stotijn picked up well on sense of passionate determination, desire, intimation of such, in view of the fleeting quality of youth, of life in general. Alan Gilbert throughout, though passively for some of the Berg,, made a fully supportive accompanist to Stotijn, having the Berlin Philharmonic read their elaborately harmonized lines, spellings with good clarity, likewise of purpose, with keeping in mind the gentle naivete of vision conveyed here, but perhaps as all at slight distance from the very emotional fiber near core of this brief cycle. Stotijn, who gave a fascinating recital at Edinburgh last fall of Schoenberg’s Opus 15, ‘Book of Hanging Gardens’ and selection of a dozen Strauss lieder, made ideal choice for soloist here.

Alan Gilbert then brought out Emmanuel Ax for the E-Flat Piano Concerto, K. 482 by Mozart, composed for Lenten season concerts of 1786 – alongside most celebrated concerti Mozart wrote in A Major and C Minor. Identifiably, a generically Romantic approach to Mozart prevailed here, Gilbert stepping back from being slightly pedantic on opening ritornello (and other ritornelli) to allow Berlin wind principals to expand out deferential lines with fine grace. Gilbert then boldly framed approaching first solo entrance, Ax providing his lines good, gently playful fluency. Some stodginess interfered with grandiose B-Flat Minor opening mostly solo transition, Ax then deftly descending into turning winsome first movement’s second theme. Slightly pulled back phrasing of runs coming off, also during transition leading up to the second theme became tricky for Ax to shake off - also after phlegmatic start to ritornello right before the Development.

Ax slightly dragged pace through harmonic sequencing to follow, his runs blandly decorating line beneath in mostly the winds; he then could hardly make re-transition more yielding than how his playing sounded already. Fortunately, some reassuring sobriety then took over, managing to restore sense of scale to how this passage concludes. Ax, in decoratively imitating flute consequents from the Exposition, was imaginative, but expanded out second theme in the recapitulation, curiously came across slightly glib, phlegmatic. Enveloping for starting the cadenza became self-conscious, as toward also making following utter flourish of it all discreetly introspective.

Gilbert, in having provided Ax limited poise, grandeur to frame his solo flights during expansive first movement made statement of theme in strings alone glibly shaped to open the second. Ax then opened out beseechingly on first variation with singing tone, though phrasing some of it slightly as from behind. Including duet flute and bassoon duet over strings, the most Mozartean playing Berlin provided here emerged during variations led by woodwinds. Ax somewhat heavily underlined running left hand sixteenths for minor key variation in-between (two in major keys). Gilbert then made phlegmatic firm tutti statements in dialogue with more yielding soloist – replies thereof deftly, elaborately expressive, continuing simply, varyingly so to the end, with Berlin Philharmonic less well defined behind Ax - while not forgetting how first-rate their woodwinds.

Woodwinds very well abetted animated skip from Ax through rondo theme, return thereof during the finale, Ax providing second theme equally good spring and animation – with Gilbert slightly retiring right behind. All slightly more in earnest, leaned on than how the music, fleeting impression for it to make, might better simply speak for itself, the central Minuetto section had winds and Ax especially trading off how to make ardent vocalized line out of much of it. Less genuine was Ax making fleeting cadenza reprise of this section precious, Ax and winds for reprise of main section of this needing allotment of more space with all a bit stiffly, but robustly pressed forward from Gilbert. All in all, for the concert hall, this was a fairly good, passable K. 482, if lacking something in grand gesture and fully realized expressive weight framed thereof for it.

Having Mozart programmed likely abetted how very well much of ‘Firebird’ went. The Berlin Philharmonic has neither played or recorded the complete score for this much; when they had, under Bernard Haitink, results, due in part to some weighing down of Teutonic accents in both strings and brass, emerged only intermittently inspired – taking also into account Haitink’s London Philharmonic disc of this (still among very best listed). Gilbert kept restrained infusing ‘Firebird’ with any excessively projected or American accent. Such could have from Berlin easily turned out wonky, awkward.

Pulsation through brooding Introduction was good, but color dry from lower strings, but lower winds and brass then better defining repeat of the same lines. Gilding of animation to percolate up from depths below and rushing through Jardin enchantee made for a surface-y feel to further opening paragraphs. Breeze through Firebird’s first appearance on the scene, with fine shimmer achieved in the strings, emerged very well in character; as abetted by bright woodwind and muted trumpet solos, her dance conveyed much supple life and animation, with capture by Ivan continuing matters well on cue. Woodwinds for ‘’Supplications’ found themselves slightly more, though characterful, to the fore than the norm for strings having entered somewhat subdued and dry, denying some shape to all their beseeching. Strings returned for reprise of main section with better profile after well achieved lighter arabesque for middle section to this.

Following brief taking in of Ravel-esque dreamy atmosphere all about, rhythmic pointing of ‘Jeu avec pommes d’Or’ was good – very fine clarinet solo to solo viola obbligato notable. Mild preciosity from Gilbert only intermittently began to turn things bland, as also did a little tentativeness toward making good profile to line for lyrical Round Dance to follow. Past a slightly rushed daybreak and other than gilding several flowers springing up along the way, Gilbert became the most engaged he had been entire evening long with much sorcery, trickery, carillon from Katschei and his minions to kick in. Even places where Gilbert, especially for Katschei, tended to almost over-emphasize, underline - as during dialogue between Ivan and sorcerer, came alive for all the very droll wit Gilbert could pack within – including for passing explosions of rage.

Picking up pace for all of Katschei’s malevolent retinue as segue into Danse infernale was joyously spot-on. The bizarreness and queer Mozartean lightness to Danse infernale itself all became very telling. Gilbert’s balancing, interweaving of Berlin woodwinds through string section refrain was at once very well defined and supple. Flute flutter-tonguing and Eastern quality to strings on their melisma chanted refrains built up to very defiant conclusion. Equally focused was the following Berceuse, excellently so, deeply achieved principal bassoon solo, strings gilded on descant harmonizing above just right.

Achievement of light, following droll sorcerer’s demise, however got lingered over more heavily than Gilbert could manage well, but emergence of solo horn from afar spinning out his lines was haunting, preparing solidly accented general rejoicing, if mildly less engaged with primary colors to the fore here than with mercurial, prickly interplay, engagement with sinister forces omnipresent before. Gilbert brought much of his own knowledge, character to this score, even if not having yet found a completely defined interpretation for it entirely; too much though can be made of that. Many of the right elements are already present; the Berlin Philharmonic emerged deferential to solid effort thus evident from Alan Gilbert at the Philharmonie.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

free counters