Detroit Symphony Orchestra/James Gaffigan – Rienzi Overture & Beethoven’s Fifth – Håkan Hardenberger gives US premiere of Tobias Broström’s Lucernaris [live webcast]

Rienzi – Overture
Tobias Broström
Lucernaris — Concerto for Trumpet, Live Electronics, and Orchestra [US premiere]
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67

Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
James Gaffigan

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 2 November, 2014
Venue: Orchestra Hall, Detroit, Michigan

James Gaffigan. Photograph: Mat HennekJames Gaffigan guest-conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this week and its latest webcast opened with the Overture to Wagner’s Rienzi, cued by a smooth, confident trumpet, and then rich, warm strings essayed the deeply soulful hymnal and a stirring of passions. Gaffigan set a deliberate pace for the martial music, made articulate and noble, and with something saved for the final sprint.

Tobias Broström was born in 1978 in Stockholm. His Håkan Hardenberger-inspired Lucernaris finds the soloist first using a flugelhorn, against an orchestral tapestry of tintinnabulation. Whether the moody red lighting adds anything is another matter, but this is an active and atmospheric score, sometimes upbeat and percussion-fuelled turning, at the close of the first movement, to eerie darkness (for the eye and the ear) and sounds of the night, Hardenberger transferred to trumpet and back to flugelhorn with seasoned mastery.

Håkan Hardenberger. Photograph: Marco BorggreveThe electronic component seems to add ambience to the colourful and evocative music, integrated enough as to remind of the tag, “is it live or is it Memorex”, the two states sharing material and not obviously one thing or the other.

Whether cool (hip) or hot (edgy), the 30-minute work seems to reach journey’s end in lonely, icy wasteland (and blue lighting), chilly certainly, and as if by magic there was Håkan Hardenberger playing from another part of the Hall, northerly maybe to match the clime of the music. It’s a strong piece, Hardenberger displaying bamboozling virtuosity and, in the composer’s presence, a positive impression for Lucernaris was made.

For the third time this week, the DSO and Gaffigan offered Beethoven’s Fifth. It was a well-sprung, rhetoric-free outing, familiar, respectful, and thoroughly musical – with nothing to complain about if nothing to get too excited about either, save for Gaffigan finding no need for novelty or fad. Powerful, and played with commitment, at least time was on Beethoven’s side – and that’s not a cert these days. The DSO’s togetherness made the music majestic and it was like meeting an old friend just as you remember him.

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