Monday, August 11, 2014

German orchestra makes the most of its resources

montrealgazette.com
ARTHUR KAPTAINIS
03/08/2014


Paavo Järvi and the 51 players of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen returned to the Lanaudière Festival on Saturday night at the Fernand Lindsay Amphitheatre.
Photograph by: julia baier , Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

JOLIETTE — Almost customary these days in early 19th-century symphonic repertoire, chamber orchestras are still generally thought to be too light for Brahms. Paavo Järvi and the 51 players of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen have their own ideas, and made them blazingly clear in a return visit to the Lanaudière Festival on Saturday night at the Fernand Lindsay Amphitheatre.

The program coupled the First Piano Concerto with the Second Symphony. Tonal layout in each made ample amends for the loss of heft. Yes, we might have lowered our expectations at the fortissimo start of the concerto — one “f” now trading as two — but purity of the string tone communicated its own kind of power.

One might say the same of the lucid sounds Lars Vogt drew from the Yamaha piano. Chords were structured. Bass and treble were balanced rather than fused. Not that there was anything academic about this German’s approach. The outer movements were properly muscular and the Adagio was full of deep thoughts.

That slow movement at points hovered near edge of audibility. Violins dropped below the threshold for a moment in the opening minute of the symphony. But the inherent beauty of the Bremen sound kept interest keen, as did the crisp phrases and many tempo adjustments Järvi (a demonstrative maestro) summoned from the podium. The lullaby-like second theme of the first movement can be a sentimental flood. Here it was a sequence of gently turbulent eddies.

Was all this detail a consequence of playing with smaller forces? More like a requirement. If there is less sonority to coast on, the urge to articulate is naturally heightened, at fresh rather than languorous tempos.

Fine individual performances in the symphony included a sweet oboe solo in the Allegretto grazioso. This was a big night for horns, especially the principal, who produced a tone that was intimate and faraway at once. Full marks also to the timpanist in the concerto. (Happily, his were the only thunderstorms on a threatening evening.)

The crowd was enthusiastic. Two Hungarian Dances were given as encores. Tempo stretches became extravagant, as did the conductor’s Mr. Bean pouts and grimaces. All good fun, but I think this music, light as it is, deserves a little more respect.

One downside to the evening was the dance music filtering into the site from an adjacent property during the concerto. The Festival really must send a delegation to these people. Why not offer them free tickets?

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