Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

Another day and another international ensemble arrives in Bucharest, this time the Bavarian State Orchestra for two evenings with Vladimir Jurowski, this first opening with the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, spacious, and a slow-burn traversal to ecstasy before the ‘concert ending’ hints at the ‘Liebestod’ if going no further as to its range.

Following the interval, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. Vladimir Jurowski chose a deliberate tempo for the first movement, which emerged as urbane and whimsical, although the conductor’s tight leash rather kept the nightmarish aspects at bay, the expression becoming mechanical. Mahler advises the interpreter to not rush… Nor did he in the next movement, which despite excellent horn and violin solos (the concertmaster now required to play a tuned-higher fiddle), and vivid detailing, didn’t quite suggest the Devil having the best tunes, a laidback approach that came into its own with the Adagio, here languorously pastoral if not as impassioned as it can be, yet rapt confidences were evident, and the lead-in to the big climax was suspenseful, the moment itself majestic, and the envoi was poignant. Jurowski went straight into the Finale, a Child’s view of Heaven, the camerawork not showing Louise Alder until she arrived front of stage. She was vocally lovely, of illustrative word-painting, and the Symphony’s end was peaceful, almost ethereal. Alder, having taken her applause, left Jurowski to an unexpected but fitting encore, J. S. Bach’s ‘Air’ from the D-major Suite, BWV1068: solemn and intimate.

In between, Yefim Bronfman played Schumann’s Piano Concerto with poise, clarity, shape, robustness and sensitivity, with Florestan and Eusebius, “the active and the passive aspects of [the composer’s] personality”, evident without Bronfman taking sides. In the first movement Bronfman enjoyed the camaraderie of the woodwinds, and his cadenza was a musical and behavioural summing up. The ‘Intermezzo’ was gently pointed and rapturous, suggesting a love-letter to wife Clara (she gave the first performance of the Concerto), and the Finale found that a moderate tempo yields fresh chiselled rhythms and a beguiling lilt. Classy. For an encore Bronfman gave a coruscating rendition of Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary’ Study, Opus 10/12.