Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Siegfried Idyll
Violin Concerto
Symphony No.9 in C, D944 (Great)

Frank Peter Zimmermann (Violin)

Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Gianluigi Gelmetti

Reviewed by: Ian George Manning

Reviewed: 6 December, 2007
Venue: Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

As the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s 2007 Season winds to a close amidst the glamour and plaudits attending the recent “Rachmaninov Festival” conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, it was instructive to hear the SSO’s Chief Conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti in a matinee programme of seemingly disparate Romantic masterpieces.

Frank Peter ZimmermannThe deep vein of lyricism that informs all three works was admirably mined by Gelmetti. He invested Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll with a glowing warmth and poetic sensibility. The dynamics were beautifully judged and the SSO’s antiphonally divided violins covered themselves in glory.

Berg never heard his Violin Concerto (To the Memory of an Angel) as he died of blood poisoning a few months before the premiere. Commissioned by a young American violinist, Louis Krasner, and inspired by the death of the 18-year-old Manon Gropius, the work’s 12-tone basis has not endeared it to many. But the tone-row’s diatonic flavour (overlapping major and minor triads), a reference to Bach’s harmonisation of the chorale “Es ist genug” and an expressive, consolatory radiance have ensured its survival in the repertoire. Frank Peter Zimmermann’s performance, both inward and lyrical, served the work well, but some subtlety was lost because of the orchestral balance and acoustic.

Schubert also failed to hear one of his major works, the large-scale C major Symphony; its “heavenly length” (Schumann”) preventing it from public performance until well after Schubert’s early death. The work demonstrates a tension resulting from the synthesis of inherited Classical form and flourishing Romantic feeling.

Gelmetti’s swiftly paced reading, directed with great warmth and cogency, was characterised by sensitive graduations of tone and dynamics, The strings appeared unperturbed by their taxing role in the ‘helter-skelter’ finale.

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