Sunday, October 23, 2022
Palau de la Música, Barcelona

Guest Reviewer, Guy Holloway

The Franz Schubert Filharmonia, previously the Camera Musicae Symphony Orchestra, was founded some fifteen years ago, Tomàs Grau is the imaginative artistic director and chief conductor and among his initiatives is a commitment to involving groups at risk of social exclusion, as well as a drive to attract young audiences.

In the opening of the Concerto, the Filharmonia took a minute or so to find its cohesion, but from then played well-enough with some especially attractive contributions from the woodwind. Grau conducts with big gestures, strong on exhortation, short on fussiness. Ivo Pogorelich’s reputation inevitably precedes him and it was therefore no surprise that his was a spacious interpretation. Throughout, his control of dynamics, colour, and his coaxing of an inner pulse, challenged and ultimately convinced – at least on this occasion. In the Larghetto, even at such an expansive tempo, the poco ritenuto and a tempo moments registered keenly, as did precisely observed rests, and trills glistened. In the Finale, it would have been good to have had just a little more zest. Only in the final pages was there a glimpse of the young Pogorelich, with flashes of exhilaration, even a little joy. There was no encore.

Grau conducted Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony concentrated on its grand sweep, trusting his orchestra and avoiding micromanagement of dynamics and balance. If there was some untidiness, this was offset by excitement and drive, for this was a performance that took risks. The Filharmonia is a modestly-sized outfit (10-10-6-6-4) played with heart, the strings sounding particularly lean. Eschewing superficial mysteriousness in the opening, Grau forged a straight-down-the-line path, a statement of dark intent and urgent purpose. The slow movement was deeply explorative, Grau allowing plenty of time for ideas to emerge. The hinterplay between wind and strings was an especial delight, though the great horn solo was not without some intonation issues. The Scherzo was rhythmically a touch square, though played with evident enjoyment as well as agility, and in the Finale Tomau worked his way inexorably, maintaining tension, towards the coda and its spectacular spine-tingling chorale, although inexplicably the final chord was oddly limp.