Philharmonia Orchestra/Dudamel Emanuel Ax – Mozart & Mahler

Mozart
Piano Concerto No.17 in G, K453
Mahler
Symphony No.5

Emanuel Ax (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Gustavo Dudamel


Reviewed by: Alex Verney-Elliott

Reviewed: 21 February, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Emanuel Ax. ©Sony Music EntertainmentEmanuel Ax gave an idiosyncratic yet poetic account of the Mozart, Gustavo Dudamel sustaining perfect rapport with the soloist, the Philharmonia Orchestra on top form playing with intimate precision. The slow movement was poignant, Ax securing an intensely concentrated line as if in spontaneous conversation with the harmonious woodwinds. The cheerful finale seemed a little darker than usual, Dudamel enticing-out dissonance not often heard.

Mahler 5 received a mesmerising performance, the Philharmonia playing impeccably and with virtuosity, the at-other-concerts reticent double basses having real presence. The opening trumpet solo was perfectly played, Dudamel’s tempos measured and rock-steady but not dragging and securing a nervous and menacing tension.The stormy second movement can often seem turgid and congested but Dudamel clarified the textures, intricate detail emerging even in climaxes. The bass drum had impact without sounding noisy whilst the trombones had an appropriate raucous and rugged quality. Despite a very-loud alarm going off, concentration was never lost, this manic movement played with great panache. And to the middle-movement scherzo Dudamel brought suave and lilting grace, the interjecting horn-solos radiantly done.

In the famous (“Death in Venice”) Adagietto, Dudamel avoided sentimental schmaltz for something tranquil and melancholic; such restraint made the music much more moving. The finale brought flexibility of rhythms and dynamics giving the music a gripping drama yet avoiding bombast, textures once more revealed with razor-sharp clarity. Mahler 5 is an over-played work, but this was an exhilarating and intoxicating performance of it.


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