Monday, July 20, 2020

Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich, Germany

It is rumoured that the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra would like Simon Rattle to succeed the late Mariss Jansons as its next music director; if so, and if I am correct to remember that Rattle has stated that he only does one job at a time, then the LSO will be watching this one carefully. Whatever will be will be: there are numerous precedents for a conductor having two, even three, orchestras concurrently.

Meanwhile, for seventy minutes in Munich – it was already a date in Rattle’s diary, if not with this programme, changed three weeks ago – using reduced forces spatially separated, with repertoire chosen carefully to match, playing to a venue with more empty seats than occupied: the price of Covid-19.

The concert, relayed in superb BR sound and with good use of the cameras, opened with a fleet yet graceful account of Mozart’s Figaro Overture. Following which, Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder were sung voluptuously and with emotional intent by Magdalena Kožená, a word-conscious account of these five settings, accompanied spectrally and sensitively, as required, by the BRSO members, leading inevitably and via the midnight hour to the poignancy and leave-taking of ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’, moving at most times, and especially these days, and not least when these performers found a below-the-radar pianissimo that was deeply affecting.

There was no interval, so it was straight into the Fanfare that Paul Dukas wrote to still the audience before his La Péri steals in, save Rattle turned instead to Ravel’s Mother Goose, but with no attacca to it, by intent. The Dukas – trumpets, trombones and tuba (cameo appearance) placed in the Gallery, horns remaining on the platform – was spacious, sonorous and stirring, and the Ravel (the complete score) magical – picturesque, colourfully detailed and tender, and searchingly lingered over in the final ‘fairy garden’ section.