Saturday, October 21, 2023
Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin
There was a chance, I thought, that Zubin Mehta wouldn’t make this week’s Berlin Philharmonic concerts because he had previously withdrawn from three La Scala evenings of Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony & Messiaen’s Turangalîla (October 11, 12 & 14) replaced by Simone Young who was there for Peter Grimes, which opened on the 18th. Sadly this proved prophetic, Gustavo Dudamel stepping in, Mehta’s without-interval programme unchanged.
Dudamel conducted Mahler Five, with an impeccable trumpet solo for starters, for its power and sentimentality, with little emotional identity at times – trudging and dewy-eyed nostalgic in the ‘Funeral March’, the railing central section certainly let loose; equally certain were the storms of the second movement if less so the ruminations. The Scherzo was broad, leaning to dragging, Dudamel rather finicky as well as cleansing the music of its macabre properties, the movement’s progress sustained by great playing, not least from principal horn Stefan Dohr, obliged to stand (one of Mahler’s whims it seems). A treacly slow, rather contrived, if gorgeous of timbre Adagietto followed (eleven minutes). The formalities of the Finale were rigorously addressed if not always its urbanity and wit, and the exuberant coda, increasing in speed, came across as hollow. As a showpiece, spectacular; as the dark-to-light Symphony Mahler wrote, dubious. Maestro Mehta’s integrity and other qualities were much missed.
The Blacher signalled the opening of the Berlin Philharmonie on October 15, 1963 (Karajan conducting Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony) scored for surround-sound brass, six horns and four each of trumpets and trombones. Not the most celebratory of pieces if very brief. The five-minute new work, premiered two nights ago, shimmers and is precisely detailed and sounded – however complexly – for a vivid narrative, dramatic and strident, over too soon, leaving the impression of a more substantial opus waiting in the wings.
Fanfare for the Opening of the Philharmonie
Mali svitac, žestoko ozaren i prestravljen nesnošljivom lepotom (Little Firefly, fiercely illuminated and terrified by unbearable beauty) – commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation (premiere)
Symphony No. 5
Postscript. Hopefully Zubin Mehta already has future Berliner dates – he’s been a regular Philharmoniker guest since 1961 – and also that he will soon be well enough to conduct these forthcoming concerts…
November 25. Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège – Verdi Messa da Requiem
December 7-17. Los Angeles Philharmonic – two programmes (Schumann & Mahler | Beethoven); eight concerts
January 9-February 4. Munich Philharmonic – Brahms’s Symphonies & Concertos, including on tour; thirteen concerts
March 15-22. Vienna Philharmonic – Ravel (G-major PC, Martha Argerich) & Bruckner Seven; six concerts
March 29. Staatskapelle Berlin – Bruckner Eight