Paavo Jarvi conducts the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (or the Bremen German Chamber Philharmonic) Orchestra at the Seoul Arts Center on Dec. 4. / Courtesy of Vincero
Conductor Paavo Jarvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (or the Bremen German Chamber Philharmonic) strived for Brahms-like perfection at their concert on Dec. 4, and a satisfied audience commended the Estonian-born American conductor and his orchestra as he and the soloists modestly beckoned each other to stage center.
Violinist Christian Tetzlaff and cellist Tanja Tetzlaff did grace the audience with impressive renditions of the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello that night, but the enthusiasm and fervor of the orchestra definitely didn’t fall short. Together, they staged a synergistic performance that left the final note lingering for quite some time.
This performance marked the fifth by Jarvi and the Bremen German Chamber Philharmonic in Korea, but it was nonetheless original and staggering. Though many regard the music of German composer Johannes Brahms to be stately and imposing, Jarvi’s interpretation was quicker, lighter and more lyrical.
As part of their “Brahms Cycle” tour, Jarvi and the Kammerphilharmonie took to the Seoul Arts Center stage with a line-up that placed the Piano Concerto No. 2 and Symphony No. 1 in the Day 1 program, and Symphony No. 2 and 3 in the Day 2 program along with the Double Concerto. The Piano Concerto featured respected pianist Paik Kun-woo.
Jarvi’s introduction to the Third Symphony on the night of Dec. 4 was abrupt but beguiling, with a brief wind entrance followed by a vibrant violin passage. The spirited movements of the orchestra members added pizzazz to a program that could have been less appealing to audiences more familiar with the First or Fourth Symphonies. The First is also known as “Beethoven’s 10th.”
Jarvi, whose conducting was classy, polished and intense, appeared to be executing vibrato midair as he directed the strings, and his elasticity of tempo gave the Third Symphony a vitality that it often lacks.
The Tetzlaffs were then welcomed onto the stage.
Christian Tetzlaff and his sister Tanja exchanged phrases seamlessly throughout the emotionally demanding Double Concerto, with a distinct poise in their attacks and releases. Though passionate, their performances weren’t, however, quite as absolute as Jarvi (and Brahms) might have wanted them to be. Accordingly, the orchestra, though resized to feature fewer strings, filled the hall with vivid contrasts, and their rich and turbulent mixture provided ample backing for the soloists. The piece fell from its energetic height to close with remarkable grace.
The Tetzlaffs gave an encore performance of Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly’s Duo for Violin and Cello (third movement) to a deafening round of applause _ the Kodaly, though lesser known, was perhaps more engaging than the Double Concerto with its dynamic progression, which some would consider a flash of energy that came amid a more plaintive Brahms program.
The Second Symphony was more arresting, curiously remindful of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.
The opening measures of Jarvi’s rendition were serene, built on the simplest of three notes in the low strings, and the melody swept into an Adagio that was at once probing and profound. The Allegretto was lighthearted, and the finale thundered down into a resolute close.
The only bad apple that spoiled the barrel that evening was the sudden departure of guests following the final measure of the Second Symphony.
A good number of the audience was standing, ready to leave, when Jarvi reentered the stage to greet viewers, and some continued to retire as the orchestra readied itself for an encore.
But Jarvi and the orchestra appeared unruffled by such action off-stage, and topped the night off with a delightful rendition of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance.