Saturday, April 13, 2024

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

Having been in Baden-Baden for staged performances of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, conducted by Kirill Petrenko, and concerts with Tugan Sokhiev, the Berliners signalled their return home last weekend with a broadcast-live concert performance of the opera that I was unable to watch (I plan to catch up on DCH), yet the angular and propulsive opening of Messiaen’s early Le Tombeau resplendissant sent out similar dramatic shockwaves before more-characteristic ethereal communication with a deity sets in – private discourse overheard before the disruptive violence returns, enough to shake-up the subsequent translucence before contact with a higher authority is once again established, and the envoi is beatific. This excellent performance revealed much about the piece, Hannu Lintu choosing well for his debut week with the Philharmoniker. Equally so, following the interval, the late Kaija Saariaho’s Ciel d’hiver – enchanted atmosphere and expression rising in ominous intensity and orchestral density; picturesque and perfectly proportioned (ten minutes), Ciel d’hiver emerged as a narrative carried on Nature’s wings.

Closing the concert, Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony, a richly moulded account with a few (surprising) uncertainties of ensemble, sometimes stiffly phrased if with greater elasticity at other times, well-detailed, and momentous trombone summonses signalling significant sea-changes, yet there was a little too much sentimentality occasionally, and a seeming ambivalence to harbouring in C-major waters.

Following Messiaen, Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto – with a savvy, snazzy, crisply-balletic opening ‘Toccata’, a high-wire act of interactions between violinist and orchestra soloists, here poised and suggestive of a Concerto grosso, whereas the freewheeling Finale was on the rapid side, enough to put pressure on even Vilde Frang’s technique and to cramp the music. Standouts were the two middle movements, both entitled ‘Aria’, indulgence avoided, emotional pangs and restlessness evident, with the second one digging deeper, suggesting intimate secrets of a betrayed heart; very moving. For an encore Frang offered a Baroque dance, which nipped along vivaciously and included unexpected accents and pauses.