Mozart: Violin Concerto in A, K219 Bruckner: Symphony No.6
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paul Daniel
Christian Tetzlaff (violin)
LPO with Paul Daniel
Thursday, November 09, 2000 Royal Festival Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Christoph Eschenbach having withdrawn, it was left to Paul Daniel to nip down from ENO to share his view of one of Bruckners lesser-known symphonies, also in A.
My knowledge of Daniels conducting is confined to his leadership of twentieth-century and contemporary pieces. He has too a considerable number of operas in his locker. His conducting of core repertoire having so far eluded me, I approached this opportunity to hear him unravel one of Bruckners difficult symphonies without prejudice.
Its rare that I find a fully satisfying Bruckner 6 - in recorded terms, Inbal and Solti (both more or less), Blomstedt and Celibidache (very much more) and Chailly (first movement only) are about it (Klemperer misses out here). As I see it, its to do with a conductor appreciating that the Sixth is the classical work in Bruckners symphonic canon. This is a symphony in which transitions and tempo relationships are crucial to building each movements edifice; also that Bruckners expression, while eloquent and deeply felt, needs the tartness of austerity that comes from astutely balancing Bruckners instrumental lines. So, after a fleet K219 - Tetzlaff nimbly articulate, quicksilver contrasts of tone and emphasis a delight to the ear, his decorations and extra cadenzas admirably authentic - Paul Daniel, having provided an animated and attentive accompaniment in Mozart (reduced strings), delivered as fine a Bruckner 6 as Ive heard.
With the LPO in splendid form, Daniel led a lucid and noble account of A major Bruckner, which he conducted with real feeling and alertness to its chamber scoring - how small instrumental details blend and balance to form Bruckners special soundworld. Having launched the symphonys Morse-code idea at a virtually ideal tempo, Daniel saw to it that the expositions three subjects emerged as an entity. Daniel appreciates Bruckners long phrases and doesnt chop into them - recognising Bruckners classical countenance Daniel let the music flow, and how expressively.
Allowing for one balance miscalculation - the blaring trumpets and trombones at the close of the first movement (Bruckners fff was less than ours is today), Daniel was the epitome of Brucknerian perspective in seeing the movements whole. The secret, his masterly handling of transitions. One of the most important comes with the funeral march of the Adagio. In an atmosphere pregnant with anticipation, Daniel unfurled the wondrous melody in tempo (a number of conductors introduce a disruptive lurching forward at this point) - crisp, marking-time timpani in attendance (another pertinent contribution all too elusive) - the musics heartache fully stated in a movement played here with blissful radiance. The scherzo (convincingly quick) - vital, muscular, even a tad humorous (my in the head tempo brings something more trenchant and pesante) - proved an admirable foil to the enigmatic trio, here taken at face value. The finale, purposeful and bold, the contemplative episode all part of the scheme, was enthralling as Daniel built to the coda in a way that was not only thrilling but inevitable - long-term Bruckner, you cant beat it. For all I know, Paul Daniel has been conducting Bruckner cycles the length and breadth of Europe for a number of years; equally, this Sixth may have been a first. Whatever his Bruckner experience, he certainly got to the heart of this particular work - he found this musics fire, beauty and inner sanctum profoundly. A rather special performance - but then this is a rather special symphony.