Saturday, February 11, 2023

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

With Kirill Petrenko indisposed, the Berliner Philharmoniker called upon Daniel Harding to navigate a somewhat changed programme,, which meant the new work by Miroslav Srnka fell overboard and exchanged for seascapes by Sibelius and Britten to complement Petrenko’s already in-place La mer.

Also staying on-board were the two works by Ligeti, subtly shifting scores in all particulars – not least colour, dynamics, frequencies, and suggestiveness – a variety of sounds conjured from an extravagant orchestra, instruments not always recognised as themselves when blended like this, realised by the Berliners with enviable refinement and control, Harding as statuesque as he could be so as not to distract, confidentially conducting the notated closing silent bars of Atmosphères, one of its unusual timbres generated by the inside of a piano being brushed, two players/four hands.

Sibelius’s mysteries of the deep with dancing nymphs was brought off with discretion and delicacy, and contrasts were made much of, with the play of threatening waves – the full orchestra saved for the one forceful fortissimo – notably dramatic, although the Interludes from Peter Grimes fell a little short of being a backdrop painting; nevertheless, ‘Sunday Morning’ was intriguingly spiky, and the ‘Storm’, however deliberately paced, still managed to have its whiplash quotient, with the taken-faster coda bringing a bracing conclusion.

Debussy paints the sea in all its moods and circumstances. Harding led a familiar yet fresh account of La mer, immaculately detailed, paced persuasively, as symphonic as it was scenic – the three movements played attacca – evocative, powerful, effervescent and vivid – the final part including the ad lib fanfares (demonstrative trumpets) and a sandbag-busting conclusion capped by a totally together ultimate chord.

Jean Sibelius The Oceanides
György Ligeti Lontano 
Benjamin Britten Peter Grimes: Four Sea Interludes
György Ligeti Atmosphères
Claude Debussy La Mer