Berg • Strauss • Ravel • Esa-Pekka Salonen • Lawrence Power • Max Hornung
Power-ful, Wonderful, Versatile
ABOVE AND BELOW PICTURES (DETAILS) COURTESY SALZBURG FESTIVAL, © SILVIA LELLI. CLICK FOR THE WHOLE PICTURE.
After attending the very, very fine Philharmonia concert with Chirstoph Dohnányi, the orchestra’s appearance two days later, Saturday August 9th, with their other main conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, was just about mandatory. Getting in wouldn’t have been a problem in any case: there was Alban Berg on the program and therefore tickets available. Don Quixote, the tone poem-cum-one-and-a-half-concerto (as opposed to “Double”) for cello and viola of Richard Strauss’ isn’t a big pull, either… nor its primary soloist that morning—very fine a musician though he is—Maximilian Hornung.
Sancho and the Sheep
The violist isn’t going to make a difference when it comes to selling tickets, either, but the choice of having a dedicated soloist for the tricky viola part, rather than letting the first violist of the orchestra scrape by (no offense) is huge, can’t have been easy (considering orchestra politicking), and was most warmly welcomed! Getting Lawrence Power, one of the more scrupulously musical string players—never mind violists!—around, sent waves of sweet anticipation through me, the same which could not be said about the piece itself. Playing not next to the soloist but from amid the orchestra, so as not to look too silly (not that a silly-looking Sancho Panza would be all that out of place) as honorary section leader, Power utterly seduced the ears to the point of view of Sancho with his gorgeous, witty playing.
A.Berg, 3 Orchestral Pieces et al.
D.Gatti / RCO
R.Strauss, Don Quixote, Till E.
M.Stenz / A.Gerhardt, L.Power
Exciting and Exacting
Esa-Pekka conducted the attacks of the Präludium of Berg’s Three Orchestral Pieces op.6 so vigorously that on a stabbing move the baton flew out of his hands and pierced the second violin section leader right through the heart, killing her on the spot. The orchestra didn’t miss a beat. There was see-through transparency in that first movement, a restrained kind of gorgeousness in the Reigen (such truly romantic music), and Mahlerian-apocalyptic in the final Marsch. Even the mallet and box from Mahler’s Sixth came in handy.
Maurice Ravel’s La Valse started cool and became increasingly merciless… which I thought bloody fantastic and afterwards had to disagree with a pair of much respected and discerning ears that thought the whole affair was too damn unromantic, technocratic and not even perfectly together. What I heard, at least—having been in a good and perhaps generous mood—was a bone-breaking, fist-clenching Valse that showed just how little fun and how much anguish there really can be, in this Poème choréographique of sorrowful remembrance. The Philharmonia, certainly, came away from those two concerts looking wonderful and versatile.