Thursday, April 19, 2012

Schumann’s Complete Symphonies, First night
Marcin Majchrowski (Polish Radio)
26 March 2012

Two years ago, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Paavo Järvi enchanted and roused the Warsaw audience with their visions of Beethoven’s symphonies. Those concerts turned into an unprecedented event – they went beyond the context of one festival and became embedded in our memory. Therefore, the very announcement of the return of the Bremen orchestra whetted my appetite for new and unusual artistic impressions. This time it is Robert Schumann’s symphonic music – four pieces of the genre and the Cello Concerto within two evenings. The ensemble has begun its new record project, referring to the 200th anniversary in 2010 of the author of Carnaval. The first results can already be seen – an album with the Rhenish and Spring Symphonies, recorded in 2009 and 2010. I suppose it is an even greater challenge than facing up to all Beethoven’s symphonies, as one needs to find a slightly different key to perform Schumann. Where can this be found? It is not easy to answer this question.
Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen approached this new artistic task with the utmost care. Again, they read the score very carefully, emphasised and highlighted the details and polished the nuances. The virtuosity of each of the musicians, the excellent harmony within each instrumental group and within the entire orchestra are the elements of a perfectly functioning organism.
And its strength goes way beyond a simple sum of the particular elements. For this reason the proposed interpretations are so convincing – starting from the precise rendition of the score. This is merely a starting point for painting an emotionally rich picture of Robert Schumann’s music.
The evening opened with Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120. This, probably the most innovative of his scores, evolved over ten long years to reach its final version. The Symphony in D minor is woven with closely related thematic threads. Järvi gave it fluency and made its texture clear; however, he did not deny it the necessary density. The sound of the orchestra was exquisitely soft and at the same time warm, with the right dose of sweetness. As a result, the Romanza second movement reached the right emotional temperature – a fantastic breath of spiritual freedom, a kind of almost amorous abandon.
The dream-like and pensive character of the Fourth Symphony was greatly contrasted with the interpretation of the Symphony No. 1 in B Flat major, Op. 38. Here, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen sounded as an embodiment of the title spring. The verve and vigour of the first movement, followed by the Larghetto of a refined dramatic tension, the swayed Scherzo and finally an explosion of impetuosity in the fantastic Finale – I had no idea that so many various moods could be shown in one symphony. The timbre of the orchestra was a bit brighter here, and the sound a touch sharper than in the Fourth Symphony – but this was exactly the thing! Spring bursts forth – Schumann himself pointed to Adolf Böttger’s poetry as the source of inspiration. It seems, however, that Paavo Järvi and his perfectionist orchestra were needed to show this poetic idea in a convincing and innovative way. And in addition, all this to be served in a fresh manner, with a smile and joy that was bound to infect the audience.
Between the two symphonies we also listened to the Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129. One of the most outstanding cellists of our times, Truls Mørk, proved to be a in a class of his own. After serious health problems he made his triumphant return to concert stages and proved his great performance artistry and unquestioned mastery. The refined dialogue with the orchestra instruments (e.g. in the middle movement with the bassoon, clarinet and cello) must have brought him great satisfaction and joy. I am curious how many soloists dream about performing with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. It is currently one of the best orchestras in the field of concerto repertoire. It knows how to give the necessary room to the soloist, but also how to enter with them into a musical discourse, how to support, and when necessary also oppose them.
The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen has developed into an orchestra that does not accept compromise. When listening to their playing and watching the musicians on the stage, one comes to the conclusion that they put maximum effort into every performance. There is no question of any calculation, sparing oneself or half measures. Maybe it is here that the key to their fascinating and rousing interpretations lies. It is a pity that we had only two evenings, because there would be enough of Schumann’s symphonic music to fill a third one. We had a semblance of this in the second encore: after the fabulously swaying Anitra’s Dance by Edvard Grieg (the strings and triangle were marvellous!) we also listened to the Finale from Schumann’s Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Op. 52. I can only dream of, for instance, Konzertstück for four French horns. Maybe one day my dream will come true? I will be waiting.

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