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6.8.11

Ionarts-at-Large: Koopman and the Munich Philharmonic's Surprising Haydn


Ton Koopman led the last concert of the Munich Philharmonic’s season, and true to his repertoire and reputation, he brought Haydn, Mozart, and Bach—exactly those composers I want the Munich Philharmonic (any and every symphonic orchestra, actually) to play more of… so much that one day even non-specialists will pick up classical and pre-classical music again with these musical bodies.

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J.Haydn, London Symphonies,
M.Minkowski / Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble
naïve
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W.G.Mozart, Coronation Mass, Ave verum corpus et al.,
Koopman / ABO & Choir
Erato
Haydn’s Symphony No.98 is among the most beautiful and least over-played “London” Symphonies, almost a shame that it started the concert in the ‘overture slot’, usually the throwaway joke*, the warm-up exercise of a musical evening. Koopman and the reduced Philharmonic (8-7-5-4-2 the distribution among the string instruments) never allowed that perception to creep in. Lithe but bold, flexibly chugging along the opening Adagio – Allegro. Kicking its legs somewhere between majestic and impetuous in the Presto; stomping its foot like a pouty little princess who has been denied her daily pink pony. For the coda in the finale Koopman, otherwise conducting from the rostrum, jumps to the harpsichord next to him to perform the long runs Haydn threw in to entertain his London audience at the Hannover Square Rooms—back then a little joke between Haydn and the orchestra leader and concertmaster Salomon who had organized the concerts in the first place. The whole performance was unqualifiedly terrific, which is to say: not just considering it was the ‘heavy’ Munich Philharmonic performing, but it would have been terrific even for, say, Les Musiciens du Louvre.

Bach’s “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen” is a Cantata especially magnificent even if you think they’re all quite magnificent. Bass-baritone Klaus Mertens sang with gentlemanly, veteran assurance, in wonderful conversation with the basso continuo of tenor-oboe and bassoon and again with the oboe in his second aria, “Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch”. The closing chorus, “Komm, o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder”, is among the most popular; heavy with sweetened sadness and often adopted; by Knudt Nystedt (“Immortal Bach”) for example, or by Hubert von Goisern for the film “Brother of Sleep”.

The second half was given over to Mozart, first the Ave verum corpus K.618, 46 bars of simplicity, calm serenity, and sheer beauty—sonorously gorgeously sung by the Philharmonic Chorus Munich (Andreas Herrmann, dir.). Last came the comparatively tumultuous, viola-less Coronation Mass (Missa in C, K.317) with soprano Lisa Larsson (treble-like, attacking notes from below), tenor Tilman Lichdi (charming-sacred restraint), and the nicely blending Bogna Bartosz (mezzo) and Mertens. The mass was very capably performed by the Munich Philharmonic, but couldn’t supplant the more detailed and outstanding Haydn as the concert’s highlight.


* The first two panels of a Sunday Cartoon in American papers, which are generally three rows high, instead of one, and in full color, not black and white. The first few panels making up the top line usually contains a large version of the cartoon’s insignia and a two-line joke related to, but independent of the rest of the cartoon. The reason for this is that papers syndicating a cartoon and unwilling to print the full three line version could simply cut the entire first line without the cartoon no longer making sense.