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Ionarts-at-Large: Mørk's AM-Shostakovich

Matinées of orchestral concerts have a few things going against them—mostly their starting time, really. Bach instead of mimosas and a light omelet on a late Sunday morning can work, but when a hundred musicians, equally wistful for something—anything—else, have to work their way through Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, it takes something special to make it work.

There was something special, fortunately, in this least-possibly-suited-for-a-matinée concert at the Gasteig’s Philharmonic Hall with the Munich Philharmonic. Namely cellist Truls Mørk, aided and abetted by his countryman Eivind Gullberg Jensen (recently reviewed with the Bergen Philharmonic and Oslo Opera), Chief Conductor of the NDR Radio Philharmonic Hannover.

available at AmazonD.Shostakovich, Cello Concertos,
T.Mørk / M.Jansons / LPO
Virgin Classics

After a long hiatus from playing, Mørk is back, as good, as controlled, and unyielding as ever. Those are qualities that really work in Shostakovich’s late Cello Concerto. There is an ambivalent quality that the combination Mørk and Shostakovich create, in a work that lets rip in many ways, but also feels uncomfortable to bear it all. Fine tone and perfect intonation being guaranteed, Mørk brought out a quality of strangely subdued violence in the defiant pizzicati during the side-drum assisted of the cadenzas. The post-dystopian friendly oompah-dances of the second movement just didn’t (and shouldn’t) sound quite right, much the same way the little quickly aborted dance sessions between the last movement’s lyrical calling card sounded beguiling-threatening.

Under cruel AM-conditions, the flutes were superb, the horns sounded more awake and sharper than they presumably felt; ditto the low strings and sharp percussion section. In a deep and dark sea of boisterous sound, loud and easily engulfing the audience, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony was eventually victim to circumstance and—heretically—one movement to long. No fault of Gullberg Jensen’s presumably, who, looking like a sexualized Struwwelpeter in front of the orchestra, sure tried to squeeze every last bit of passion for the Pathétique out of players and audience.