Saturday, October 1, 2022

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

Blomstedt is back. Following an unfortunate fall late in June,, Herbert Blomstedt has been recovering, if unable to mark his ninety-fifth birthday on July 11 as planned, and, although he only resumed his vocation very recently,

And here he was returned to Berlin (the place of the accident) and to the Philharmoniker. Blomstedt trademarks are a little changed now – he walked on fairly slowly with the players, and now sits to conduct; while, unaffected, of course, the violins were divided antiphonally, with basses to the left, and his scores remained unopened.

Schubert’s Third Symphony was delightful, opening with a rattling roll on timpani and a slow introduction of gravitas leading to a bouncy Allegro, initiated by a cheeky clarinet, full of detail and vivacious rhythms. The second movement was Beechamesque – the antithesis of Carlos Kleiber’s fleet dance – if charming, courtly and courteous, followed by a vital and contoured Scherzo, its Trio indivisibly belonging and enchanting on its own terms, then the Scherzo twice-through again. The Finale had spirit and clarity in equal measure; judicious.

In acknowledging applause Blomstedt stayed on the chair singling out Philharmoniker personnel and he left the platform with a guiding hand from the concertmaster, Noah Bendix-Balgley on this occasion. Blomstedt recently recorded Schubert in Leipzig for DG,, and if you like Schubert’s music you’ll also like Voříšek’s,

All repeats were observed in the Schubert, as they were in Beethoven’s Seventh, perhaps the Symphony Blomstedt conducts the most from Beethoven’s Nine (twice in London for me). The opening was weighty and sustained, and following a masterly if almost unnoticed transition, turned into a fiery and incisive Vivace, with no spurious holdings-back. Blomstedt went straight into the Allegretto (as quite a few conductors do these days, effective) a contemplative if glowing traversal followed by a Scherzo that gambolled merrily along with a Trio that flowed in relationship to it and avoided false rhetoric. The Finale, no faster than Allegro con brio justifies – more importantly what the music itself dictates – was a tour de force of accumulating energy and a thrilling release to the finishing post, Berliners now in fifth gear … much audience cheering … standing ovation.

Hopefully the Berliners have invited Blomstedt for next season (he’s been a regular guest for many years). Meanwhile, during this current one, he is scheduled for Tokyo (imminent, Mahler’s Ninth), Copenhagen, Bamberg, Amsterdam, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dresden, Paris, Oslo and Vienna, and that’s not all…