Sunday, March 7, 2021

DR Koncerthuset, Ørestads Blvd 13, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

“Brahms’s First Symphony means to me a rainy afternoon. I’m sitting in my room and looking at the rain through the window, thinking about the past, my memories, my youth. Then I return to the rainy day. We want to establish a style in Brahms’s music which escapes the dictatorship of the metronome, of bars. This music is above [beyond] the metronome.” With eminently distinguished recordings of the complete Symphonies of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven under his belt, Ádám Fischer is a musician steeped in the Austro-German middle-European style. What he doesn’t know about structure, cohesion and repeats, about the development of the classical orchestra, isn’t worth knowing.

This no-audience matinée account of Brahms’s First Symphony was on another planet, radically removed from heavyweight ‘big band’ practice. No Furtwängler, Karajan, Böhm or Celibidache here. Not at all. At first I found myself thinking of Schumann. Then the pared-down world of Brahms’s early Serenades came to mind. Increasingly chamber-like dimensions permeated the texture. Dynamic extremes too, particularly emphasising the quieter end of the spectrum. Still more arresting was the fluidity of tempo, the urging and relaxation of pulse characterising not just subject groups but independent passages and phrases as well.

The result was a liberally variegated flexible canvas, facets of undefined theatre, intimacy, argument, pictorialism and dream combined quixotically, nothing exactly demarcated, unpredictability, the element of surprise, at a premium. Fischer’s way with time, his distinctive musical reasoning, is a familiar trait of his. It convinces. Likewise the urgency of his temperament. Outwardly he may seem reticent and shy, a gentle soul, but leaping flames fire his music-making.

For over twenty years chief conductor of the Danish Chamber Orchestra – since 2015 Denmark’s only major independent orchestra, owned and governed by its musicians – he has a good rapport with his players. Backing his vision, they leant into this performance, happy to make the most of their strengths and colours without overstating the case. Clearing the wood for the trees.