Saturday, March 11, 2023
Kuppelhalle, Stadthalle Hanover

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

With his thirst for all things musical, practical, editorial and literary, and a formative HIP background from Cambridge and the RAM to the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and the English Concert, followed by larger-scaled exposure, Andrew Manze, principal conductor of the NDR Radiophilharmonie, is the kind of musician, now in his late-fifties, who brings involving but quiet authority to his performances, free of fussiness or mannerism. Serious music-making, encouraging, collaborative engagement, is his thing. In recent years he’s achieved some especially fine results in the mainstream repertory (particularly sympathetic concerto direction, listening, watching). A dedicated, off-the-beaten-track Rotterdam Beethoven Ninth sticks in the memory (December 2020

Warmth and a sense of spacious architecture, orchestra, chorus and soloists in harmony, characterised this Brahms German Requiem. Emphasising beauty and gravity, Manze’s conviction brought home the sheer emotion, profundity and scale of the work – pre-First Symphony music that over the years, having once known it well, I’ve inexplicably allowed to dim in my consciousness. The second movement 3/4 ‘funeral march’ – black Chopin B-flat minor rather than fateful Beethoven C-minor – sang and soared magnificently, weighty orchestral colouring yet pinpoint clarity (the timpani triplets for instance) heightening the drama, climaxes and archaic cadences ennobled from subterraneanly within. Each movement brought glowing splendours, the contrapuntal argument chiselled and buttressed, solo lines (vocally, orchestrally) highlighted and blended with direction and purpose (the epic allegros of the sixth movement not least). Manze’s commitment, his sensitively grained understanding, impacted impressively. Spiritual voyage, symphonic encounter, Handel and Beethoven yesterday, Bruckner and Mahler tomorrow.

Predictably Benjamin Appl (baritone, third, sixth movements) and Susanne Bernhard (soprano, fifth) brought home-cultured ‘German-ness’ to their extended ‘aria’ contributions, boldly projected. The NDR Vokalensemble and WDR Rundfunkchor – what the European broadcasting choir tradition makes possible – rose comparably to the occasion, tightly disciplined and alert regardless of dynamic spectrum. A memorable, richly throated sonority. First-class playing from the NDR Radiophilharmonie (antiphonal violins) – never anything but a competitively honed ensemble.