Photo taken during rehearsals

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Großen Musikvereinssaal, Wien

Beginning yesterday afternoon, Zubin Mehta, during his latest Austrian adventure, is conducting six performances of Bruckner Seven with the Vienna Philharmonic, five at home, with one in the Konzerthaus and the other four gracing the Musikverein, the final concert (without the Ravel) being in the Linz Brucknerhaus this Saturday.

This Sunday matinee, the second outing for this Franco-Austro coupling, broadcast in excellent sound, found the protagonists in top form for a slinky, swanky and jazzy Ravel G-major Concerto unto which Martha Argerich also enquired of the music’s eloquence, whether the first movement’s reflection, during which the tricky horn solo was impressively poised (to match the opening trumpet virtuosity), with other details suitably projected, i.e. with a joie de vivre as if emanating from a Parisian nightclub. No lack of scintillation in the Finale, which was encored, followed by the lively incident of a Scarlatti Sonata, with a particularly languid middle section made altogether special by Argerich, but the treasured memory will be Ravel’s slow movement, spacious and tender, piano and orchestra entwined in soul-searching togetherness (wonderful cor anglais solo).

And togetherness informed the Bruckner, representing a rapport built upon the Philharmoniker and Mehta’s sixty-year-plus relationship, a broad view of this music (circa seventy-three minutes) if never static and rejoicing in infallible Brucknerian instincts from maestro and players, whether chamber-music interaction and asides, or sonorous tuttis arrived at with climactic certainty yet subtle fluidity. The Richard Wagner-in memoriam Adagio was also flexible (Mehta surprisingly swift for the contrasting Moderato episode) and if his approach suggested the use of Nowak’s edition it was certainly his cymbal clash that capped the climax, here for touched-in colour rather than theatrical spectacle. The Scherzo was weighty and (brass-players equally so) heroic, the Trio perfectly belonging in terms of tempo-relationship; and the Finale, fleet of foot and airily textured, rose to a Heaven-opening coda, arrival confirmed by a slightly longer-than-usual tenuto on the ultimate chord; impeccable timing.

Mehta’s forthcoming Bruckner Eight: