Sunday, September 24, 2023

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

This four-week crammed-with-events Festival’s concluding concert, and the RCO’s second appearance during it with Klaus Mäkelä, began with George Enescu’s Concert Overture on Popular Romanian Themes, an enjoyably diverse and colourful ten-minute confection played with distinction. It’s rare that Mahler’s six-movement Third Symphony shares a programme with anything else – I can only immediately think of Charles Dutoit also including Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody in a London concert some years ago. For all the RCO’s seasoned and secure response (including impressive trombone solos) Mäkelä’s conducting of Mahler’s lengthy first movement was initially tame and short on atmosphere – maybe akin to winter thawing to let spring take over – for this slow-burn approach did increase in temperature as the new season marched in with picturesque incident and joyous swagger. If overall there was a lack of theatre, an injection of adrenalin informed the coda. (It was now the moment for the vocal contingents to take their places.) Movements II and III were finely characterised, whether the lilt of the former or the edgy rumbustiousness of the latter, itself contrasted with a beautifully played ethereal posthorn (trumpet?) solo conjuring distant vistas (“on a clear day you can see forever”). Then Jennifer Johnston, from within the strings, dug into Nietzsche’s lyrics, oboe bird-like calls in place, followed by lusty bell imitations from women and children (including the girls’ voices Mahler doesn’t ask for) and, culminating, the Adagio Finale, of sacred love – hushed, spacious, serene – building in well-charted intensity to the power and glory of reaching the ultimate destination.


CIPRIAN ȚUȚU conductor of the choir
RĂZVAN RĂDOS conductor of the children choir