Friday, March 25, 2022

National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, Ireland

Brahmsiana: Leonard Slatkin’s orchestrations of Brahms’s chamber and vocal music started concert life like this,, and continued thus,

Now, Dublin, Brahmsiana is on its third outing and its third configuration:

  1. Capriccio in D Minor, Op. 116, No. 1 for Orchestra
  2. Intermezzo in E-flat Major, Op. 117, No. 1 for Wind Ensemble
  3. Vineta, Op. 42, No. 2 for String Orchestra
  4. Andante from Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60 for Orchestra
  5. Rhapsody in E-flat Major, Op. 119, No. 4 for Orchestra
  6. Wiegenlied (Lullaby), Op. 49, No. 4 for Orchestra

Gone, on grounds of length, is ‘Theme and Variations, Op. 18b for Wind Ensemble and Harp’, which previously occupied fourth spot, and its removal now leaves a compact six-pack of Brahmsian confection (or so I was writing, live) expertly tailored by Slatkin for various orchestral groupings. Played with enjoyment by the RTÉ musicians, not least as soloists, this six-section sequence works a treat … but wait, there were seven movements, a new No.4, with agile pizzicatos. Interval e-mailing got me this response: the (a cappella) Der bucklichte Fiedler, Opus 93a/1; ah yes, that was added for the Manhattan concert (I should have re-read my review!), and it’s now a replacement.

Bookending the concert was soprano Ailish Tynan. She opened with Schubert’s Ellens Gesang II (D838), as scored by Brahms for three bassoons and four horns; she sang warmly and communicatively; they played intimately; he directed with discretion: as the hunter is bid to rest from the chase.

Following the interval, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony: a jaunty, shapely, courtly reading – with subito elements – of the first movement, played with relish and character, fully vivid and nightmarish as the music moves forward, here with stealth, panache, and upheaval. In the next movement, with concertmaster Helena Wood taking a second, up-tuned, violin, it was time for some macabre merrymaking, full of contrasts. The heart of this performance was the gloriously spacious reading of the Adagio – rapt, sensitive, passionate – its episodes explored yet threaded to a mighty climax – the opening of Heaven’s Gates – followed by a poignant envoi and Tynan’s return to report from the celestial abode with child-like observations coloured by the generous expressions of maturity, including a rather affecting vocal ‘shake’, serenely signed-off by the players.

All in all, a fine concert with equally fine sound and picture. Slatkin stays with the RTÉ Orchestra for a programme next Friday (April 1), music by Milhaud, Ravel, Weill and Gershwin.


Recent Slatkin on Colin’s Column includes: