Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Grande salle Pierre Boulez, Philharmonie de Paris

Klaus Mäkelä, born 1996 in Helsinki, already has the Oslo Philharmonic embedded in his CV, add to which the Orchestre de Paris, of which he is music director designate, a position he begins in September 2022.

The composer’s final completed Symphony found the orchestra at full strength (eight basses, with all string-players, violas outside-right, and percussionists masked) for a Mahler 9 that proved to be more than a taste of things to come, for it was a compelling performance based entirely on musical values suggesting that Mäkelä has already ‘arrived’ in Paris, aided by tangible broadcast sound and camerawork that went to the heart of the ensemble, the listener left in no doubt of the already-close rapport between conductor and players, the latter heroic as well as thoroughly rehearsed and focused.

Mäkelä’s Mahler success had much to do with his resistance to doing anything novel for its own sake. The first movement was convincingly ebbed and flowed within a tempo that nailed Mahler’s Andante comodo (accommodating) marking ideally and, as required, letting the music contemplate or sear without skewing long-term structure; and there was also an emotional urgency that sustained the whole, Mäkelä feeling the music from within while avoiding indulgence without compromising intensity or incident.

The second movement (effectively a Ländler) was of rustic vitality, lyrical contrasts affectionately shaped and imbued with nostalgia, until such sentiments were brushed aside brusquely – Mäkelä made the most of contrasts without losing the line. There followed a ‘Rondo-Burleske’ both driven and coldly cynical, counterpoint closely observed; come the celestial mid-point, poignancy rose to the surface, and when the opening music returned it seemed that bit more manic – it certainly became so, a wild ride to the abyss, vicious if exhilarating.

The Finale was a true Adagio, expansive, eloquent, rich string tone set against distant callings, a World beyond approached with a sad if sweet resignation (some fine solo contributions) – the music always going somewhere so that the big climax was made inevitable, so too the fading of the light that follows as the textures thin to nothing, silence. Eighty impressive minutes.

Available to watch until May 2: