Monday, August 27, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW: Paavo at the Proms!

August 14, 2007

Very intimate Mahler

By Barry Millington, Evening Standard

It's easy to forget that for all his gargantuan symphonic structures, Mahler's orchestration is often of chamber-like refinement and subtlety. Nowhere is that more true than in the Knaben Wunderhorn songs, where the pleasures and sorrows of peasant life are recreated with a spareness and simplicity that immeasurably enhances their poignancy.
In his performance of a selection from that collection, Matthias Goerne seemed to relish their intimate scale, as it were addressing the handful of promenaders immediately in front of him rather than the majority of the audience in far-flung parts of the hall.
The hauntingly funereal pair of songs with which he opened, The Sentry's Night-song and Where the Fine Trumpets Sound, were exquisitely projected, making full use of Goerne's richly burnished baritone. But In Praise of High Intellect, that satirical account of a singing competition between a cuckoo and a nightingale settled by a large-eared donkey of a critic, was also delivered - perhaps appropriately - as though it was being shared with a select audience.
Paavo Jarvi drew a correspondingly inward reading from the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, with immaculately controlled brass and wind solos. In the Schoenberg arrangement of Brahms's Piano Quartet No1 in G minor, Jarvi allowed himself to develop more amplitude of tone, more sensuousness of expression, though he admirably contrived to avoid what can seem, in this version, somewhat clogged textures. Pointing up the woodwind flecks and sparkling glockenspiel in the first movement, he also revealed a silky, translucent quality in the textures of the Intermezzo.
The more characteristically Brahmsian grandiloquence of the Andante elicited a register of elevated rhetoric, with swaggering abandon for the Gipsy finale.

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