Screenshot from broadcast
Saturday, December 17, 2022
Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin
This concert’s generally slow-moving content was here made varied and wonderful through superb playing and insightful conducting. The Prelude to Parsifal had a profound sense of searching, the music shimmering with promise, dynamics and blends carefully graded – a means to a spiritual end – transcendent strings, the brass glowing nobly, and woodwinds eloquently expressive. There was no doubting the music’s stage provenance – Bayreuth of course – as Christian Thielemann spaciously unfolded the introduction followed by the ‘Good Friday’ section, the latter opening with a grand gesture and continuing with a pppp hush sustained by the Berliners’ magically rapt response. There were curtain-calls for Albrecht Mayer, oboe, and Wenzel Fuchs, clarinet. The Preludes to the three Acts of Hans Pfitzner’s Palestrina (first performed in 1917, conducted by Bruno Walter, and a great opera when heard in Rafael Kubelík’s DG recording) are also spellbinding; radiant, atmospheric and transporting in I & III, with II being vigorous, louder and dramatic.
Between Wagner and the interval, Camilla Nylund featured in a flowing and expressive account of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs. Vivid word-painting was sometimes Nylund’s forte, tactfully but distinctively accompanied, singer and conductor especially at-one when the settings are at their most intimate and were here peered into by all concerned to release their fullest potential, yet avoiding sentimentality. Perhaps though the stand-out moment came at the close of the second Lied, ‘September’, when Stefan Dohr’s horn solo seemed to float mystically from afar – amazing given he was in the same room.
The concert ended with one of Schoenberg’s orchestrations of a J. S. Bach organ work (this example from 1928 premiered in Berlin by Furtwängler). A large orchestra, yes, but chamber-like in the kaleidoscope of instruments heard (tuttis are rare), so that the ear is constantly beguiled by brilliant, diverse and unexpected coloring of what is a relatively substantial piece, joyous in effect. It crowned a choice of repertoire described as “pastel-shaded” by Thielemann who conducted most of the works from memory: like Blomstedt he has the scores in front of him but doesn’t open them, all except the Schoenberg, which, in an interview, he admitted to being fascinated by.
- Richard Wagner Parsifal: Prelude
- Richard Wagner Parsifal: Good Friday Music
- Richard Strauss Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs) Camilla Nylund soprano
- Hans Pfitzner Three Orchestral Preludes from Palestrina
- Johann Sebastian Bach Prelude and Fugue in E flat major, BWV 552 (orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg)