Screenshot from broadcast

Saturday, June 3, 2023

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

The square brackets indicate that “due to legal reasons that arose at short notice” the DCH was unable to broadcast the Wagner, replaced by film of Daniel Barenboim playing a Mozart Piano Concerto (No.13) with the Philharmoniker at Versailles in 1997. The other works were relayed live, as intended.

Fauré’s ineffably lovely music for Maurice Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas et Mélisande (a story that also attracted Debussy, Schoenberg and Sibelius) gently seeps into the consciousness through restraint, a dark, if occasionally more-direct, emotional seam, with lighter filigree moments, and flute-led charm, if always with a shroud of mystery and tragedy embedded therein, culminating in ‘The Death of Melisande’, numbed in expression, the whole Suite beautifully and sensitively played by the Berliners in response to Barenboim’s discerning direction.

Franck’s sole Symphony has never lacked for recordings, not least Barenboim with Orchestre de Paris for DG, and recent ones include Alain Altinoglu, Mikko Franck and Gustavo Gimeno. Just this week I listened to versions by Ansermet and Klemperer, both notable, similarly timed (close to forty minutes), if otherwise differently arrived at, as part of my ongoing attention to respective collections of these conductors (both surveys currently pinned to the front page) and Edward Johnson unearthed the shortest (as well as first, 1924) and longest performances that could be found of this D-minor masterpiece, with a live Stokowski account as a median,

Surprisingly the Franck, for so long a regular, has become a stranger to the concert hall, so it was very welcome from Berlin, and other concert appearances suggest it is making a comeback. Barenboim gave it a grand, potent and stoical outing at-one with markings such as Lento, and non troppo, with plenty of power and passion in the outer movements, cohesion too for all the tempo largesse, deeply felt and very expressive, Barenboim’s minimal gestures setting the parameters for the Berliners to respond with devotion, refulgence and intensity (violins, antiphonal, had a sheen; left-positioned basses depth); spacious, yes, stretched even, but never sticky if maybe a tenuto too far on occasion, and utterly compelling (for some, unbearably plodding, I imagine), although the end of the first movement was curious, haphazardly faded (Celibidachian in manner if uncontrolled, perhaps impromptu). The middle movement, nominally Allegretto – more Andante moderato quasi Adagio from Barenboim – with harp and cor anglais to the fore was something of an indulgence though, the middle section nicely delicate and pianissimo however, and it was attacca into the Finale, as broad as the first movement, no syllable allowed to slur, patiently built, with certainty, to a resplendent conclusion, trumpets and cornets snaking through at the very end. Excluding applause, forty-seven minutes. I really was expecting at least fifty. (Timings can be deceptive.) So glad to have heard this intriguing performance. Very long enthusiastic ovation.

Gabriel Fauré Pelléas et Mélisande – Suite, Opus 80
[Richard Wagner Wesendonck-Lieder (orch. Felix Mottl, i-iv, and the composer, v)]

César Franck Symphony in D-minor

Yvonne Naef/NDR Sinfonieorchester/Christoph von Dohnányi. Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival 2009