Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Gautier Capuçon’s big-toned account of Shostakovich’s 1959 E-flat First Cello Concerto written for Rostropovich proved the highlight of this concert. He delivered an organic, intensely impassioned reading, projecting the third movement development-cadenza imperiously, the Munich Philharmonic behind him all the way, relishing the collaboration and exchange. His biting attack and generally taut rhythmic articulation was distinctively characterful, similarly his timing, letting phrases breathe and paragraphs find their natural place in the emotional and structural drama. He inferred a layered storyline, making the most of the quasi-DSCH motto references without deliberating them into caricature. An arrangement of the B-minor Prelude from Shostakovich’s Five Pieces for two violins and piano (the Gadfly “Guitars” Romance), with the cellos of the orchestra, made for a reflective, sweet-toothed encore, aristocratically floated.

Not for the first time, watching Gergiev (pencil in Enescu, hands in Brahms) proved distracting, his neurotically fluttering fingers and head in score oddly diminishing the stature of the music. Did he really know where everything was going, who needed cuing? Hot, dishevelled, bothered, he looked like a man who’d lost his way, the orchestra uneasy, even critical, in their body language. Listening on replay, however, proved another experience. Here was a classical driven, romantically infused Brahms First Symphony (no first-movement repeat, mind), the Munich players (separate music stands) led magnetically by Lorenz Nasturica-Herschcowici on home turf – antiphonal violins with cellos and basses centre and left of stage respectively. From downbeat to finish, this was a performance that grew in stature, palpably believable by the closing pages.

Dating from 1915 – Romania about to enter the War, a costly decision – Enescu’s six-movement Second Orchestral Suite, in C-major Opus 20, published posthumously, takes inspiration from the Baroque: Overture, Sarabande, Gigue, Menuet grave, Air, Bourrée. Its polyphony and neoclassicism is bigger boned than Prokofiev’s, Stravinsky’s or Ravel’s, with Richard Strauss, elements of Reger, and, somewhere, the piano suites of Raff, lurking in the wings. Passing folk elements colour the narrative, the odd snatch of First Romanian Rhapsody string writing surfacing in the Finale. Here bombastic, there delicate, Gergiev, at around twenty-four minutes including repeats, steered a reasonably muscular course if sporadically wanting in precision. He and the Munich principals were best in the imaginatively imagined Sarabande and Air. No one though seemed to much enjoy the Menuet grave, an odd creation. Contrasting Iosif Conta’s heavier-handed 1990 recording, he sensibly took the (over-orchestrated?) Bourrée at a slightly faster tempo than the minim 92 of the score – though it still came over as a galumphing exercise trying too hard.

Overcoming the transmission problems of the opening night, the webcast/replay was excellent with high quality visuals (1080p) and audio.