Friday, August 26, 2022

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

The Berliner Philharmoniker and Kirill Petrenko opened their 2022-23 Season with Mahler Seven and is about to tour it, Petrenko has recorded the work, from performances in Munich, May 2018,, and there was a London visit with M7 at about this time.

Four years on, KP (following a foot injury and subsequent operation he was afforded a chair, although whenever I was watching he was standing) remains a swift interpreter of this enigmatic and endlessly fascinating five-movement masterpiece.

The opening movement, with its tenor-horn solo, well-nigh infallibly played, and the suggestion of motion through water, had a sense of occasion, and the Allegro enjoyed heraldic thrust, only slowing, somewhat, for the forest-legend radiance midway through before Petrenko drove the music onwards, deliriously, played heroically.

Two of the middle movements are entitled ‘Nachtmusik’. The first of these (advert music many years ago, Mobil oil) needs to be kept on the move, and was, otherwise it can drag, here it went somewhere; and the second, a serenade with mandolin and guitar – dusk, gentle breezes, love in the air, rapture – had charm and innocence, dark shadows, too. In between is a macabre Scherzo, like a slippery malevolent mouse a cat can’t catch, spooky details relished and heightened (antiphonal violins coming into their own), placed impeccably, ghostly knockings.

The Finale – launched here by a brilliant timpani solo and fearless trumpeters hitting the high notes – bids farewell to nocturnal adventures in exchange for a bright day and a festival, a cast of carnival characters, layers of music, some of it dance, some of marching bands, and the occasional allusion to other composers (Lehár, Schumann, Wagner?). If Petrenko doesn’t nudge (let alone wink at) certain aspects like Bernstein, he knows how to conjure a pageant and mastermind a big bell-fuelled finish. Seventy-three minutes in Munich, it was a couple fewer in Berlin. Maybe it was too pushed-through at times, however. I didn’t feel that on the recording.