Saturday, June 1, 2024

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

Seven movements, forty minutes, these are the basics of Jörg Widmann’s Horn Concerto, written for Stefan Dohr to a Berlin Philharmonic commission, premiered two nights ago. The soloist is required to cover a gamut of frequencies, spin lyrical lines and deftly articulate mercurial sections, during which there are numerous quotations (including from Weber and Schumann, and such as Radetzky March and Offenbach’s ‘Can Can’) as part of a score of wit, satire, effects, song-like beauty (one movement suggests a kinship with the Mahler Five Adagietto) and a to and fro between horn and large orchestra that adds ‘forest legend’ and theatrically confrontational aspects to the whole. While there is no doubting Widmann’s imagination, inventiveness and skill, for all the entertainment this heroic third performance afforded, one wonders at the piece’s staying power.

For Bruckner Six, Sir Simon continued to use the recent investigative edition by the sadly late Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs (as recorded on LSO Live), a persuasive rethink of tradition and embracing the composer’s noted intentions – thus a quickstep tempo making the first movement unusually perky if related across the episodes, admirably negotiated by Rattle, who went on to sculpt a sublime slow movement, aided by Jonathan Kelly’s expressive oboe contributions, then a bouncy Scherzo with a Trio of standout unanimous pizzicatos and vibrant horns, and a Finale of shape, integration and direction to complete a notable reading of fresh-faced classically poised music-making.