Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jansons Anja Harteros [Eroica Symphony … Four Last Songs … Daphnis et Chloé]

Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 (Eroica)
Vier Letzte Lieder
Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No.2

Anja Harteros (soprano)

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Mariss Jansons

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 29 March, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Mariss JansonsHere, with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra sporting all-important antiphonal violins (double basses left-positioned), Mariss Jansons drove swiftly through the first movement, elegant and poised rather than fiery and revolutionary. The repeat of the exposition brought more force (or more concentration from me – I was initially distracted by a Mr & Mrs struggling to switch their mobile off!). If the first movement lacked the fiercest declamations, it was uncommonly well prepared, and played unanimously with a freshness of discovery. Jansons moved the ‘Funeral March’ along just a little hastily (oh for some Furtwänglerian gravitas!), not so much mollycoddled as lacking burden if finding greater intensity at the climax. With a perfectly paced scherzo, lucid, lightly touched and active, the trio releasing a perfect horn threesome, and a finale that rose to nobility and an unusually measured if still-liberating coda, this was a positive and refreshing performance.

Anja Harteros. ©Sony BMG MasterworksFor the second half, Jansons had the violas sitting outside-right and shifted the double basses to the right. Richard Strauss’s “Four Last Songs” found in Anja Harteros a poised and discriminating interpreter, her word-pointing and -painting a constant delight, Jansons and his orchestra bringing out and placing detail with pristine devotion. Mellifluous horn (Johannes Ritzkowsky) and violin (Andreas Röhn) solos were exemplary, and the final setting (‘Im Abendrot’) was particularly valedictory, oozing sentiment but avoiding sentimentality, and closing with a golden sunset.

The BRSO is a versatile orchestra, responding innately to composers’ various demands. The ‘Eroica’ had been distinct, so too the Strauss. The Second Suite from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé displayed yet another soundworld in this rapturous account, the opening ‘Sunrise’ given very spacious treatment, a real dark-to-light experience. This was a wonderfully coloured account, full of finesse (right down to varieties of cymbal colour), Philippe Boucly excelling in the flute solos. If the concluding ‘Danse générale’ was maybe a little too controlled, it was brought off with certainty, once more abounding with detail that tends to be overlooked (subtle trombone glissandos, for example).

With a visiting orchestra Jansons invariably adds a couple of encores. First was ‘Solveig’s Song’ from Grieg’s music for Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt”, beautifully played if perhaps too consciously moulded, and finally ‘The Wild Bears’ from Elgar’s The Wand of Youth (Suite No.2), which twisted and turned with glee.

Make no mistake, the Bavarian Radio Symphony is a great orchestra and with Mariss Jansons conducting seems to be limitless in what it can achieve. Next London date, 6 March 2010, Royal Festival Hall.

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