Berlin Philharmonic • Sir Simon Rattle
Accompanied by Lutosławski’s Third Symphony, Brahms’ Piano Concerto in B-flat looked like the pacification of the kind of Berlin Philharmonic-attending Festival audience member who has booked the tickets based on the orchestra’s reputation alone, and booked a table at the Goldener Hirsch for right after intermission. Surprisingly few of them seemed to have made such modern-music-avoiding reservations, though judging by comments overheard, the in-performance coughing, premature exits, and the very tame applause after the Lutosławski, a few more may have wished they had.
W.Lutosławski, Symphony No.3, Les Espaces du Sommeil,
W.Lutosławski / BPh / Fischer-Dieskau
W.Lutosławski, Symphonies No.3 & 4, Les Espaces du Sommeil,
E-P.Salonen / LA Philharmonic / Shirley-Quirk
The Lutosławski Third Symphony is a work full of cluttering slides, xylophone hiccups, brass chorales, wind-lamentos, flute-flutterers, and string pedal points. With a bit too much imagination, it could be thought of as the third Act of Tristan as performed by a very impatient orchestra of amateur-musician farm animals. In my had I saw an animated short film by Nick Park, creater of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Lutosławski’s use of “limited aleatory”, improvisation within set parameters, contributes to the sense of organized chaos. It’s more challenging listening than his downright populist Concerto for Orchestra, but a rewarding trip for any set of open ears. The Berlin Philharmonic, which has played and recorded the work still under the composer’s baton—showed impressively which work all the rehearsal time had gone into.
Secretly, almost mischievously I had hoped for the encore to be a da capo performance of the half-hour symphony… which would have done legions for the comprehension of the work. But Simon Rattle didn’t feel sadistic at around 11PM at night and threw in, as a bonbon for the poor and mildly disturbed Lutosławski-averse patrons, two and a half minutes of a Slavonic Dance by Dvořák. A nice gesture, but effectively erasing, with its damn catchiness, the memory of the Symphony.