The Rossini and Stravinsky substitutions (being played elsewhere by the VPO) made excellent bedfellows Stravinsky not so much quotes than distortedly refers to a snatch of the Rossini towards the end of his ballet. The overture was somewhat unvaried hard-sounding and unrelenting. In a similar vein was the first tableau of Jeu de cartes, mechanical and brusque; the opening music, signalling the first deal, was portentously delivered, as it would be on its two returns. Bit-by-bit the VPO and Ozawa warmed to its Stavinskian task with the rendition taking on wit and flexibility to reveal the sarcasm, syncopation and music-hall ditties of the second part; vivid instrumental projection spilled the final section towards its denouement.
Ozawa had a great success with Dvorak 7. He didnt make the fatal mistake of thinking this a symphony by Brahms, and the VPO found its true self, an innate response to Dvoraks Slavonic rhythms. Ozawas was a spacious reading, one sensitive to the musics intimacies, and a powerful one, fully producing the dark aspects of this very personal music. Melancholy and determination are threaded through this symphony; Ozawa added dramatic emphasis without distorting the shape while contrasting the slenderest of tones and the most heartfelt expression with richly-moulded articulation and plenty of muscle and climactic fibre. No thick textures either; Ozawas transparent balancing and the VPOs superfine textures never threatened to subjugate this music to spurious Germanic heaviness. It was Dvoraks individuality that shone through, his nationalistic Czech pride, his sadness and his strength.
Ozawas novel attacca from the Poco adagio to the scherzo suggested two sides of a troubled soul intimate and tender in the former, its reticent anguish transmuting into an insistent and tormented waltz, the trio a radiant, flowing contrast. This ravishingly played, collectively eloquent performance climbed to the resolute coda, Ozawa underlining the symphonys tragedy; the final bars are not an easy victory anything but. This was an interpretation of imagination and integrity shot through with just enough intensity to sustain the symphonys wide range of emotions.
For those that paid top-dollar for tickets, the revised programme equated to about £1.00 per minute of music. There was a rebate though in the form of Strauss Family encores Johann IIs Op.354, Wiener Blut (Waltz) and Josefs Op.245, Plappermaulchen (Polka schnell). Ozawas obvious affection for this wonderful repertoire, his lingering phrasing in the waltz, all repeats observed, and the high spirits of the polka augur well for the 2002 New Years Day Concert, which Ozawa conducts for the first time, a notable event usually rush-released on CD; so too for Ozawa PHILIPS 468 999-2 should you want to order now!
- The Vienna Philharmonic return to the RFH on 11 April with Lorin Maazel Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn
- Box Office: 020 7960 4242 www.rfh.org.uk