Saturday, December 31, 2022
Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin
The heavy brass chords opening the Verdi issued a dire summons. The response was intimate and tender. Plenty of drama followed, the alternations of mood confirming that Destiny can be fickle with any one of us. The Berliners played with well-rehearsed power, detail and sensitivity, Kirill Petrenko no-less demanding in ‘party mode’ than when conducting a subscription concert. The single extract from Prokofiev’s ballet score, the scene having been set by the Zandonai aria, was attacked with vehemence, speed and gnarled grandeur, percussion perforating the blasts of brass (flawless). Following the Mascagni, the selections from La strada covered a lot of ground – from circus ebullience to deepest sadness via percussion-fulled, big-band swing. Finally, Tchaikovsky in Italy, a performance thoroughly worked on for just the right timbres, shapes and blends – nothing frivolous allowed – if not as sunny or as carefree as this piece can be, but no doubting the precision of the playing or the musical clarity and consideration – although there was an unbuttoned dash to the finishing post.
Interspersed through this early-evening, without-interval, concert, Jonas Kaufmann paraded several arias, the extended Verdi (from Forza) giving a clarinettist as much to do as the singer; Wenzel Fuchs was a poetic and lyrical foil, beguilingly soft, to Kaufmann, very much in character, as he then was for the Zandonai, tragically one-half of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. So far slow, slow. Add a third such number, from Chénier, but with additional ardour by comparison, and simmering emotions, Kaufmann hitting some glorious high notes. Before singing from Cavalleria rusticana, the orchestra gave a dignified account of the voluptuous ‘Intermezzo’, the aria itself, slow of course, with a querulous quality in the strings, something also required in the voice initially, soon broke into the full verismo.
There were two encores, the first with a returning Kaufmann, and further Rota, something familiar from his music for The Godfather. Slow! Finally, ‘Folk fest’ from Shostakovich’s score for The Gadfly. Fast!