Monday, September 27, 2021

Wigmore Hall, London

Last night most members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra were in Bucharest,, whereas several colleagues were heading to London for today’s lunchtime gig at Wigmore Hall (unless they jumped on the first-available plane following Bruckner 7).

Camerata RCO included Brahms’s D-major First Serenade in its original version for nonet (string trio, bass, flute, two clarinets, bassoon and horn). The young, mid-twenties, Brahms (as pictured) would orchestrate the work (Opus 11). In either scoring it’s an ambitious six-movement piece, played stylishly and with collegiate interplay by the RCO musicians, tempos well-judged for articulate music-making and with the lengthy first-movement exposition repeated to emphasise the piece’s scale, the players also displaying a keen ear for rustic timbres (the opening Allegro is bucolic and gorgeously tuneful), lyrical curlicues and rhythmic vitality. Sultry colours informed the flowing third-movement Adagio; otherwise it’s a couple of Scherzos, a Minuet and a joyous Finale.

The recital opened with Carl Nielsen’s Serenata in vano (Serenade in vain, 1914, for clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and bass). Described by the composer as a “humorous trifle” it is certainly charmingly whimsical and story-telling descriptive played here with skill and affection. If I heard the Radio 3 announcer correctly, Bernard Haitink (for many years the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra’s conductor) was in the audience.