Thursday, June 8, 2023

Elbphilharmonie, Platz der Deutschen Einheit 20457, Hamburg, Germany

Sad to report that I had technical problems finding this live webcast, and when I did there was no sound, but the last couple of minutes of Brahms’s Violin Concerto ‘looked’ to be fiery, the Elbphilhamonie Orchester and Herbert Blomstedt as engaged with the Finale’s closing stages as was Leonidas Kavakos, his bow flashing across the instrument’s strings as well as digging into them; he was doing the full gypsy. He played two encores, both with the concertmaster, the second being one of Bartók’s Forty-Four Duos – sound now available – so I must assume the ‘silent’ first was also from this collection. Blomstedt was a keen listener standing at the side of the stage.

As he inches his way to age ninety-six on July 11, a generous concert schedule in front of him expressing his deep enthusiasm for music, Blomstedt, these days walking on with the musicians, sitting to conduct, continued his championing of Carl Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony (he’s recorded all Six twice – Danish Radio/Warner and San Francisco/Decca) with a performance that relished every note, his hands, face and eyes communicating directly with the players giving their all in response. In particular, Blomstedt’s concern for dynamics was indivisible with the progress of the music, with plenty of tension sustaining the slow-burn first movement, seen whole, initial stalking strangeness building to an organic climax, despite the side-drummer doing his best to halt proceedings (at the composer’s request), and the clarinettist should be mentioned. The second movement, although quite measured, had energy and power, clarity also, both rhythmic and in terms of contrapuntal detail, and a sure sense of direction through galumphing fugue, then reflection, with the releasing coda made inevitable. ***Available to watch until July 8, 2023***