Saturday, March 4, 2023

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

Paavo Järvi ended the evening with an exceptional ‘Eroica’, Beethoven at his fieriest in the first movement (with exposition repeat), the tempo fleet, the detailing vivid, with plenty of softs within the louds (subitos of each), precise and poised articulation from a virtually full-size Philharmoniker (violins antiphonal, six basses left-positioned), the momentum of the performance always meaningful, never becoming ruthless, and then dignity and space were afforded the (fifteen-minute) ‘Funeral March’, climaxed intensely, numbed aftermath … attacca into an on-point Scherzo and ebullient Trio … attacca into a Finale traversed with purpose, dancing merrily in the fields, with a grand summation leading to an exhilarating/releasing coda. Egalitarianism rules, okay.

The first half included early (1930) Messiaen, his ‘forgotten offerings’, a three-part continuous score that is immediately contemplative and rapturous only to be swept away by a violent and jagged interruption – given full furious vent here – before returning to meditation, now more rarefied. Beginning on the edge of audibility, Toshio Hosokawa’s Prayer (its premiere was two nights ago) also involves contemplation, complemented by subtle colours and dynamics (the orchestra is large though, including harp, celesta and plentiful percussion), slow-burn music that seems to evoke an undisclosed narrative – if influenced by the composer having recovered from Covid and in tandem with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The music’s progress becomes restless, quickening, loud brassy outbursts interrupting private thoughts that are also universal, helping to span the twenty-five-minute whole with suspense and drama leading to an enchanted conclusion. Whether as sound or story, Prayer is very listenable, and will appeal to admirers of Takemitsu and Dutilleux. Written for Daishin Kashimoto (one of the Philharmoniker’s concertmasters, that place occupied on this occasion by Vineta Sareika-Völkner), he played Prayer superbly and with dedication, finely partnered, and offered an encore, the ‘Sarabande’ from Ysaÿe’s Sonata IV (for Kreisler).

Olivier Messiaen Les Offrandes oubliées
Toshio Hosokawa Prayer (premiere)
Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”

Berliner Philharmoniker – Vineta Sareika-Völkner appointed as First Concertmaster.