Lucerne Festival (6): Thielemann and the Dresdners Made for Each Other

09/09/2015

 Lucerne Festival, Beethoven, Bruckner:  Dresdner Staatskapelle,  Yefim Bronfman (piano), Christian Thielemann (conductor), Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Lucerne (KKL)  8.9.2015 (JR)

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3
Bruckner:  Symphony No. 6

Thielemann should have absolutely no regrets at “losing” (temporarily, perhaps) the Berlin Philharmonic. His (fairly) new orchestra, the Sächsische (Saxon) Staatskapelle Dresden, to give it its full name, is a truly venerable and splendid ensemble and nowadays can stand alongside their illustrious neighbours up the Autobahn in Berlin. They may not have such a characteristic sound but all sections thoroughly impress. Thielemann and the Dresdners are simply made for each other. (On the downside, I did only count a handful of women in the orchestra, they are dangerously close to competing with the Viennese on that score).

The first half of this concert was given over to Beethoven’s Third piano concerto; with Yefim Bronfman at the keyboard, the powerful and virtuoso passages as well as its fluid and delicate parts were in the very best of hands and came over crystal-clear. Bronfman has recorded this concerto (and all the others) with David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra to great acclaim; I felt that this performance with Thielemann had added ingredients, a conductor who brought real life and more warmth to the accompaniment. Thielemann’s incisive conducting was as immaculate as his appearance: he crouches to quiet the orchestra, and leans back Carlos-Kleiber-style to allow the music to breathe, leans forward to deliver incisive attack.

Bronfman’s playing was delightful, expertly-judged Beethoven without mannerism or affectation, just perfect. At the end Thielemann almost refused to take any bows at all, leaving the stage so that Bronfman, properly, could receive the vocal accolades.

Bruckner’s Sixth is a bold choice of work (it did not quite manage to fill the hall), sitting in between the “easier” early symphonies Nos. 3, 4 and 5 and the mature and more impressive Nos. 7, 8 and unfinished 9. (I shall ignore, for these purposes, symphony numbers 0, 00, 1 and 2). Bruckner’s Sixth was described by the composer as “meine keckste Sechste”, his perkiest.  Bruckner did not revise it (Mahler did, but only after Bruckner’s death), one or two short bars do cry out for an editor’s knife; Bruckner never heard it (nor his Fifth symphony) performed as a whole in public, though the Vienna Philharmonic included the inner movements in a concert programme and he heard the same orchestra play the whole work at a reading.

Musicologist and Brucknerian Robert Simpson felt that the symphony, though not often performed and sometimes thought of as the “ugly duckling” of Bruckner’s symphonies, nonetheless made an immediate impression. Thielemann has apparently remarked that the audience should rediscover slowness in all Bruckner’s symphonies, albeit with incredible fire within, and these were indeed hallmarks of his interpretation.

Conducting without a score, Thielemann and his remarkable orchestra gave a cogent and inspired performance.  When thrilling conclusions came, such as at the end of the first and last movements, they were suitably blazing; the Dresdners have an exceptionally fine brass section and Thielemann thankfully never tempered the decibels.

In the Adagio, music of great composure, the strings were exemplary; Thielemann did not veer into sentimentality. Yes, it was slow, but wholly in line with the conductor’s vision.

The perky Scherzo was most successful, with its typical Brucknerian pattern of rhythmic outer passages with uplifting brass fanfares and a gentle pizzicato string passage in between.

The concert gave a welcome opportunity to hear a very fine performance of a lesser-played and enigmatic Bruckner symphony. It needs a great performance to bring out its subtleties and its majesty and on this occasion it certainly received one; this was probably my most enjoyable concert of the year so far.

Thielemann leapt onto the podium at the end to wallow in the vehement cheering.

John Rhodes

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • NEW! Venus Unwrapped: Kings Place’s Year-Long Focus on Women Composers __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Loki’s Madam Butterfly can be seen in Alton and London this September __________________________________
  • NEW! The Joys of the Marlboro Music Festival: Chamber Music’s Best-Kept Secret __________________________________
  • NEW! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month