Sunday, September 26, 2021

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

My previous visit to Bucharest – via the Internet – was for Paavo Järvi and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra’s Mahler 3,

Just over a week later another august ensemble was gracing the George Enescu Festival. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is noted for its Bruckner, especially during Bernard Haitink’s tenure. Throughout this Seventh Symphony, the players’ experience shone through as Daniel Harding led a beautifully turned, detailed and integrated account, swifter than some (sixty-three minutes) if no-less consequential to eloquence and matters spiritual. The first movement had a sense of direction, numerous dynamic contrasts came across as germane to the whole, as did increases in tempo, such as in the coda, which avoided signalling that the Symphony had finished. In the Adagio that became a memorial to Wagner (the orchestration includes the horn-like tubas that carry his name) Harding traded mawkishness for dignity, the Moderato section bringing sunshine, the strings’ chiaroscuro especially appealing (violins antiphonal), and the percussion-capped climax (Nowak’s edition then, unfortunately), reached momentously, brought in its aftermath a sad flute. The Scherzo charged along, its Trio a pastoral retreat, and the compact Finale married perkiness with cathedral awe, con moto, any loose threads gathered together for an ending in-keeping with what had gone before, that is non-portentous.

The concert started with Enescu’s early Pastorale-Fantaisie (1899, the composer aged seventeen or eighteen), the darkly lyrical opening contrasting with gossamer animation, eruptive outbursts, a slowish waltz, and storms worthy of The Flying Dutchman. And it was Wagner himself who followed, his Overture to Tannhäuser. If the Pilgrims were a little too solemn/ponderous then the fast music was as exciting as the clarinet-led moonlit reflection was luminous, and the work concluded with a blaze of sonorous brass.