Saturday, June 25, 2022

Waldbühne, Olympiapark, Glockenturmstraße 1, Berlin

If you go down to the woods today … you’ll find the Berlin Philharmonic and Kirill Petrenko playing away; you’ll also find thousands of fellow-travellers enticed by an orchestral showpiece rarely off musicians’ stands and a universally popular Piano Concerto. Maybe Kikimora is less familiar, a witch first languorous and then frenetic, Liadov capturing the moods with compositional mastery and painterly brilliance, smiled upon by this maestro and his troubadours for its seven minutes, the wild ride ending with a piccolo puff of smoke.

There are at least twenty orchestrations of Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky content with the piano); invariably it’s Ravel’s that gets the nod, as here, as it did twenty-four hours previously, Petrenko opted for contrasts (of tempos and dynamics), pointing up drama and witty turns of phrase, while leading a wholesome ear-grabbing and persuasive tour of Viktor Hartmann’s artefacts, not least through cultivating a weighty string sound and providing space for engaging solos.

Coming centrally was the Rachmaninov. Maybe the spectators were expecting Daniil Trifonov to be at the piano – he had to wave goodbye to this engagement with his good arm, his injured one preventing an appearance – so it was Kirill Gerstein instead for a technically pristine if rather harried/fences rushed first movement, a brief encounter that began to settle only in the last couple of minutes and at least paved the way for an eloquent Adagio, although even here indulgence wasn’t an option if without denying starry-eyed lovers their romance, and the Finale was about fleet fingers and uninhibited rhetoric. Despite sensitive and shapely moments there were more that were choppy and hasty, although wherever Gerstein went, the Berliners were with him, and without him, kein Klavierkonzert.

As an encore Gerstein played Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesleid in Rachmaninov’s elaborate transcription with improvisatory freedom. The orchestra added the ‘Pas de deux’ from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and the usual Waldbühne sign-off, Paul Lincke’s rousing Berliner Lüft. The weather had been kind but it was dark now.

Change of line-up at Berliner Philharmoniker’s Waldbühne concert this Saturday: Kirill Gerstein replaces Daniil Trifonov.