Sunday June 07, 2020

Konzerthaus, Brückstraße 21, 44135 Dortmund, Germany

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Dortmund’s first public concert since the Covid-19 outbreak (albeit for a limited size of audience), with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, a survivor of the virus herself, replacing Christoph Eschenbach, who turned eighty in February, the Berlin Konzerthausorchester’s music director.

There was plenty to savour, a “bravo” following the Beethoven driving home that while these may have been physically distanced musicians before us, they were no longer in isolation. The distancing looked considerable, down to transparent screening.

Did it make any difference to the quality or accuracy of ensemble? Not that I was aware. Everyone seemed relaxed – playing, listening, reacting, enjoying the moment much like any comfortably spaced piano trio or string quartet.

Established in 1952 in the then East Berlin sector, the full-strength Konzerthausorchester (renamed in 2006) deliver a characterfully honest sound, blended but not averse to individual input, any number of quality chamber formations possible within their scope – in this case MG-T opting for strings at (antiphonal violins).

“Probably what fascinates me most is the poetic quality and the mystery of this composer and her work”, MG-T says. Raminta Šerkšnytė’s De Profundis, for strings (1998), is personal and efficacious – emotionally, structurally, texturally. “A work of genius” (Gidon Kremer), “thirteen minutes of deepest Lithuania” (live-stream continuity). Inviting mystic response, it’s music that emerges “out of the depths” (Psalm 130) – birth. Progressing through “the urgency of youth”. Returning to “nothingness” – mortality.

Well that’s one interpretation anyway. It held my attention. MG-T – determined, watchful, tight short baton, taking time to let the music breathe – secured a performance variously moody, energised and lyrical, Šerkšnytė’s lines floated with atmosphere and tonal beauty, the lower registers sonorously primeval, each rest and pause precision-placed.

Kian Soltani pleased in Haydn’s early C-major Concerto, the quality of his entries in the second and final movements notably impressing. Neither he nor MG-T, though, were in a particularly ‘period’ mood, the spring in the first movement more dated than current in manner. No way did it disturb, the eastern (Persian) ardour of his personality carrying the day. In the Adagio, MG-T’s hands swirling like so many Sibelian swans, he went overtly for the music’s romantic heart. Not so much vernal Haydn here, more the old man of thirty years later loving the “girl in rose”. Homing in on Soltani and the third desk first violin, the camera caught passion and half-smiles on the wing.

MG-T took a buoyant view of Beethoven 4, though not without frowns, shadows and thunder along the way. No first-movement repeat, a commodious Finale (allowing the woodwind, not simply the first bassoon, to shape rather than scramble), natural trumpets, kettledrums all about invention, imagination and subtlety of attack and colour (Michael Oberaigner, an artistic player).

Video production overall was excellent, the sound-mix detailed and balanced. No shortage of HD close-ups – bows on strings you could touch, MG-T cool to the end.