Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Grande Salle Pierre Boulez, Philharmonie de Paris, 221 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Britain’s concert halls stay shut, musicians in lockdown, prospects grim. But the lamps are coming out all over Europe. This spring evening, in a dimmed Philharmonie de Paris, empty of audience, a small elite group from the Orchestre de Paris gathered to make elevated music.

Highlight of their forty-five-minute set was a performance of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll in the original chamber version. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this piece for years, less to do with the music than with conductors who somehow never get it right, misjudging corners, impeding its reverie, quite frankly getting in the way. I really don’t think I’ve ever heard it done better. Gracious solo playing from all departments, woodwind and brass lingering and soaring in the acoustic, strings velvet deep, nutty and golden, each note shaped and adored for itself. Here was bewitching intimacy, caressed exchanges, nostalgic nuances, everyone intent, watching, the result a sonnet from another world on the way from Liszt to Richard Strauss. Closing one’s eyes, a handful  of Tonhalle players, long since forgotten, came out of the mist. Tribschen, Lake Lucerne, Christmas Day 1870, all the time that time wanted before them.

Strauss’s Capriccio string sextet, music from Munich, 1942, opened the programme. Tone, style and balance at a premium, characters conversing, musing, musical memories surfacing. I found myself thinking of Volker Weidermann’s Summer Before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936 – a recent book (2014) yet one wholly suffused with the fading, dying era it inhabits. To finish, the Good Friday Music from Parsifal in Andreas N. Tarkmann’s 2004 arrangement for eighteen woodwind and brass plus timpani. Sonorously engaged. D-flat major. Rebirth. Redemption.