Thursday, September 21, 2023
Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania
Opening with the five Notations (I-IV & VII; 1945) that Pierre Boulez expanded from the aphoristic yet fertile piano originals (the plan was for him to do all twelve) and scored extravagantly, yet with trademark precision and clarity, Cristian Măcelaru presided over very well-prepared accounts of these iridescent gems that swagger, or contain shadows, and always entrance the ear with bountiful layers of expression and a galaxy of colours and nuances, each element meaningfully intertwined. Orchestre National de France was on top of the complexities, matching Boulez’s refinement and pulsations.
Boulez intended to write a Violin Concerto for Anne-Sophie Mutter; not to be alas. Henri Dutilleux did write one for Isaac Stern. L’Arbre des songes (The Tree of Dreams) was completed in 1985 and premiered in Paris by Stern with this orchestra, Lorin Maazel conducting. Exquisitely composed, a world within a world is created – expressive, intense, mercurial and ravishing music, the stuff of unrestricted fantasies, very much for violin and orchestra (including a cimbalom), with plenty of activity, incident and suggestiveness, played with mastery by Augustin Hadelich, partnered passionately, sensitively, and with immaculate detail, by Măcelaru and his musicians.
Earlier today at the Enescu Festival, Giovanni Antonini had conducted Haydn’s late oratorio The Seasons. It was probably serendipitous that the visitors from Paris brought The Rite of Spring with them. A wonderfully poised bassoon solo opened this Paris-associated ballet score, Măcelaru and Orchestre National going on to give an eventful and danceable rendition, not as violent as some, and certainly no empty/exaggerated-for-shock showpiece performance; rather a fleetness that brought freshness, with no lack of mystery to begin Part Two, which would conclude with a thrilling ‘Sacrificial Dance’ and an emphatic and unanimous final chord. (Given the multitude of instruments The Rite needs, Stravinsky doesn’t score for a harp, so it was instructive to see the three Boulez requires still on the platform, unattended.)
Encores: Hadelich played a jazzy, hillbilly number that I believe to be Louisiana Blues Strut by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, and a sweetly sentimental piece that suggested Kreisler; and to the vernal Rite (brass and percussion sometimes giving way to often-overlooked writing in the strings) Măcelaru added a poetic Rachmaninov Vocalise.