Philharmonia Orchestra

Mozart
Violin Concerto in G, K216
Mahler
Symphony No.5 in C sharp minor

Christian Tetzlaff (violin)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Christoph von Dohnányi


Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 22 July, 2005
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Surely no one would blame Londoners for staying at home and away from the incessant travel risks. Well, this conventional programme attracted a huge audience, a sell-out for Mozart and Mahler with two eminent German musicians. The only gripe is not taking opportunities for refreshing the repertoire of the Philharmonia Orchestra and its Principal Conductor.

Small-scale Mozart was totally dwarfed in the vast expanses of the Royal Albert Hall. A shame not to couple the two great 20th-century symphonic antipodes, Sibelius and Mahler, the former admiring the latter’s Fifth Symphony when writing his slightly later orchestral work In Memoriam. Maybe Dohnányi could have been asked for Sibelius’s wondrous Fourth Symphony, a work very much in tune with the constant uncertainty in our daily lives, bombs or no bombs.

This concert was, therefore, a wasted opportunity. As it is we can be thankful for the miraculous playing of Christian Tetzlaff in Mozart’s gleaming G major Violin Concerto, albeit everyone’s contribution was hard to hear given the cavernous acoustic.

No problem with Mahler’s large orchestra, of course, as used in the Fifth Symphony, a big work in every respect but rarely played so well as on this occasion. Truth and sincerity are two virtues often obscured in Mahler performances but here both qualities shined through in Dohnányi’s attention to the big picture of life and death rather than most interpreters’ view of playing this work for cheap thrills. Hence the quiet passage for cellos in the often-hectic second movement came as balm within furious bustle. The short passage for solo flute amidst the accelerating excitement in the finale also made a wonderful impression. The first horn in the scherzo (and elsewhere) not only looked liked a Greek goddess but played like one, too. Indeed, the Philharmonia played to its considerable strengths in all quarters, performing with distinction.

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