Sunday, August 28, 2022

Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin

Recently announced as the RCO’s next Chief Conductor,, Klaus Mäkelä will spend the next few years in a designate position while balancing his duties with the Oslo Philharmonic, &, and the Orchestre de Paris,

Arriving in Berlin for the current Musikfest (“In cooperation with Berliner Philharmoniker”), the Dutch ensemble opened with Kaija Saariaho’s twenty-minute Orion, scored for large orchestra, and immediately otherworldly in timbre – gently tinkling percussion, piano, two harps, swaying strings, before greater density and intensity beckons and the tempo increases; then a mystical section dominated by expressive solo lines – hypnotic, rarefied – and, finally, ‘Hunter’, fast, rhythmic and vibrant, complex in-pursuit music that requires and received a super-virtuoso response. (The RCO’s most-recent Horizon release:

Following the interval, Mahler Six. Mäkela’s tempo for the first-movement Allegro matched energico, ma non troppo additions, allowing ‘Alma’s theme’ to soar in a classical relationship, and then back to the beginning to repeat the exposition. Mäkelä’s relish of the music was reciprocated in playing of particular bite and beauty, although whether some jauntiness and Alpine relaxation to this degree were entirely appropriate is another matter, but certainly the music ended in triumph, if less hard-won than can be the case … and then into the slow movement (, an oasis of calm and contemplation, rendered with inward loveliness, climaxed ecstatically … and then back-to-earth with a bump for a feisty Scherzo replete with flexible and edgy dance rhythms, ending in uncertainty. As for the expansive Finale, the longest movement of the four, in which the hero is felled – with hammer-blows – Mäkelä drove the music confident of victory, making those (two, Mahler deleted the third, as pictured) strokes all the more vicious, the second in particular, although there was rush at times, if exciting, yet whatever he did the Orchestra was with him all the way. Fate won, decisively, and there was a significant silence prior to applause. There had been marvellous playing, not least from Katy Woolley, formerly horn of the Philharmonia Orchestra.