Saturday, December 16, 2023

Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin

The Beethoven lacked suspense at its opening, the subsequent Allegro (shadowy dawn to bright day), despite being played with precision and clarity (bassoon burbles always clear), on the fast side (for me if not the composer), as was the Finale (repeats observed in both); by contrast the middle movements upped the interest – a spacious song-like Adagio of bountiful expression (beguiling clarinet solos) with an organically reached passionate climax (just like Cluytens with this orchestra sixty-odd years ago, my first recording of this work some ten years later), then an exuberant, rhythmically vital Scherzo enclosing (twice) a tempo-related Trio.

Closing the concert, Richard Strauss’s breakthrough opus, Don Juan, a bleak conclusion to the evening given the lecherous Don has been killed, his amoral adventures put to the sword. Up to that fateful duel Andris Nelsons led a slightly subdued outing, at its best in amorous sections, slow-burn (indulged) and dulcetly coloured.

Following the interval, Sofia Gubaidulina’s Dialog (2018, for Vadim Repin, recorded by him on DG with the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Nelsons), a mostly slow-moving series of exchanges between violin and orchestral soloists and sections, quite tense, ominous, sometimes threatening (clangorous alarm bells, middle-of-the-night loud knocks-on-door bass drum strokes, blaring brass, or quietly suspenseful), if variegated in timbre, eloquent violin against the odds, desolate ending – a committed performance from all, Baiba Skride totally involved.