As a critic one can swing with the majority or be a lone voice as long as opinions are honest and informed. You see, my friend really did not like Dohnányis account of the Rhenish Symphony, while I enjoyed it enormously. I suspect our differences are reflected in my appreciation of Dohnányis sifting of those things that are, if you will, Schumanns DNA, namely rhythmic and instrumental divisions that Dohnányi was so punctilious with, realised with a musical pleasure of motivic interaction, lightness of touch and inner-part clarity. Having the antiphonal violins helps and this grouping paid huge dividends throughout this most pleasurable of symphonies. My friend missed the horns. He meant that he missed Mahlers horns (Mahler re-orchestrated all Schumanns symphonies). Dohnányis implicit trust in Schumanns notation gave much aural delight, a satisfaction the Philharmonia shared through smiling faces when a tricky rhythm was negotiated or a detail spot-on. Textural clarity won the day, from the glorious expansiveness of the opening movement to an exhilarating Finale via the solemn and moving cathedral scene. My friends thoughts noted, this is my review!
This was the first of a three-concert German Romantics series with Dohnányi, and it couldnt have got off to a better start. Leonore No.3 was of magical hush (breathtaking pianissimos) and pregnant distending which underlined the overtures Fidelio connections and (sometimes) its use in the opera (try Bernsteins recording) with Dohnányi sustaining Beethovens structural elongations to dramatic effect. The off-stage trumpet was perfectly balanced, and if the coda was too controlled to be a leap to freedom, the musical articulation was suitably heroic.
Heroic is a word that amply describes the Brahms, both the piece and the stamina and virtuosity needed by the soloist. Emanuel Ax is always at the service of the music, therefore his technical accomplishment should be observed rather than lauded. Whether him or the instrument, the pianos tone was somewhat dry, although this is music that doesnt need any additives. Dohnányis taut yet pliable conducting emphasised the symphony-manqué that this concerto is, yet there was nothing obbligato about Axs contribution. His generosity, both to music and to colleagues, eschewed false over-spill. Musical liasing was notable; no wonder Ax refused to take any applause until the Orchestra stood to share it. The Finale was uninhibited, Ax producing ear-perking colours and touches, savouring Hungarian curlicues and summating the closing cadenza. My friend thought the slow movement mesmeric. We agreed on this!
- German Romantic concerts continue on 6 & 11 February
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