Mathis der Maler Symphony
Oboe Concerto in C, K314
Symphony No.7 in D minor, Op.70
Jennie-Lee Keetley (oboe)
Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: William Yeoman
Reviewed: 16 April, 2005
Venue: St John's, Waterloo, London
This programme, comprising two off-centre symphonies book-ending one of Mozart’s most attractive wind concertos, promised much in the way of comparison and contrast. A pity, then, that the overall conception failed properly to take into account stylistic and acoustic considerations, resulting for the most part in murky orchestral textures and what felt like sluggish tempos.
The performance of Hindemith’s symphony drawn from his opera Mathis der Maler, was emotionally spot on, with the outer movements’ fugal sections and chorale prelude-like treatment of the melodic material driving the middle ‘Grablegung’ into a mixture of sadness and repose. However, Hindemith’s often busy, contrapuntal textures could have benefited from generally quicker tempos and a more transparent orchestral balance. As too could have Mozart’s more straightforward (though no less ingenuous) writing; although in this case it was also the matter of Jennie-Lee Keetley’s stylistically informed playing, with her largely vibratoless sound and crisp, clean articulation, battling Jonathan Butcher’s incongruous and old-fashioned orchestral accompaniment.
The Dvořák was likewise afflicted, despite a dark, surging intensity in the first movement and a closing Allegro of genuine power. The Poco Adagio was lugubrious at best and suffered from some slight intonation problems in the woodwinds; the scherzo wasn’t punchy enough, sounding for the most part like undifferentiated thunder. Again, perhaps it’s simply a case of not selecting the appropriate speeds for the size of the venue.