Saturday, December 11, 2021

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

Music by the Berlin-based Estonian composer, poet and essayist Jüri Reinvere (born 1971, pictured) opened this latest Berlin broadcast. Maria Anna, wach, im Nebenzimmer is subtitled ‘Nocturne for large orchestra’ and the named person is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister, “awake, in the next room”. Awake she may be; however, the music suggests a dreamlike state and a certain anxiousness; during ten minutes not much happens and the orchestra is sparingly employed. Webern-esque.

As for Stravinsky’s Rite, well I guess the bassoonist wishes he could have started again, although the performance as a whole was underwhelming, too laidback, sometimes percussively soggy, and if Andris Nelsons avoided showpiece tempos, albeit just about, this was rather too comfortable, the ‘shock’ of the music taken for granted, although the impressionistic beginning to Part Two was ravishing (if indeed it should be this exquisite) with what followed more engaging than earlier and played with greater focus; the final ‘Sacrificial Dance’ had an upsurge of energy if not enough frenzy.

As centrepiece, Håkan Hardenberger gave a rollicking display of trumpet-playing in Weinberg’s twenty-five-minute Concerto (Opus 94; 1967). The first movement (‘Etudes’) gallops along, the soloist rarely silent if with his instrument muted for a time – creating distance – the music, a mix of Khachaturian and Shostakovich, is edgy and ironic, a circus atmosphere suggested. The slow middle movement (‘Episodes’) is intense and lamenting, emotionally burdened, a haunted landscape, during which there are numerous orchestral solos, not least for a flute. The linked-to Finale (‘Fanfares’) is a surreal confection: at one point the trumpet nearly starts Mahler 5 and then embraces Petrushka (flourishes from tableau III) while the orchestra alludes to other familiar ditties (was Shostakovich influenced by such a mosaic when composing Symphony 15 a few years later, I wonder) before the piece fragments, like candles being snuffed out, and ends with a whimper.