Blomstedt Remarkable with the Tonhalle at 88


 Grieg, Lidholm & Dvořák: Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Herbert Blomstedt (conductor), Tonhalle Zurich, 28.1.16. (JR)

06.05.2010, Gewadhaus zu Leipzig, Grosses Concert, Gewandhausorchester, Herbert Blomstedt,  © Gert Mothes Sparkasse Leipzig Konto 1891191701 BLZ 86055592

Herbert Blomstedt © Gert Mothes

Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite

Lidholm, “Poesis”

Dvořák, Symphony No. 9

Apparently when the Orchestra Manager asked Blomstedt, 88, whether he wanted a chair for rehearsals, he declined, adding such things were for old men. I take my hat off to him: he seems to be immortal. He looks fit as a fiddle and conducted more vigorously than many of his younger counterparts.

The concert began with Grieg’s playful Peer Gynt Suite. As Blomstedt himself pointed out to the audience, Grieg wrote no symphonies but was a master at very short pieces. When Blomstedt conducts, you can see and feel it’s music he loves, as he nurtures each inflection and nuance. He smiles benevolently throughout. The first piece “Morgenstimmung” was most tenderly rendered, “Ases Death” was atmospheric, smiles all round for “Anitra’s Dance” and some grotesque woodwind sounds introducing “In the Hall of the Mountain King” which Blomstedt whipped up into a ferocious frenzy. It all made for a highly entertaining, tuneful start.

Swedish composer Ingvar Lidholm was born in 1921 and composed “Poesis” in 1963 on a commission from the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary the following year. Herbert Blomstedt led that ensemble. In a new edition of the piece in 2011, the composer dedicates “Poesis” to Herbert Blomstedt—“a great conductor and a wonderful friend.”  While the stage was being re-arranged for the piece, Blomstedt picked up a microphone and gave us a 20 minute talk on the work’s composer and the composition. He explained (in faultless German) that the piece has no melodies, no harmony, no rhythm – it’s rather a series of noises or sounds than music. It is scored for four flutes (all four doubling piccolo), four oboes, four clarinets, four horns, four trumpets, four trombones, tuba, four percussion players (bongos, reco-reco, claves, tambour de basque, marimba, snare drum, small cymbal and gong, cowbells, tenor drum, medium cymbal and gong, sand block, whip, timbales, large cymbal and gong, temple blocks), piano, and strings: that gives you the picture. The 20-minute long piece starts with a percussionist rubbing sandpaper; Blomstedt told us it needs to be sandpaper grade 60 to get the right effect. The strings glide up and down the strings and there is a solo for the double bass principal. The story goes that the principal of the Stockholm Philharmonic, when the piece was premièred, disliked modern music, so rather cheekily Lidholm wrote a solo for him – after which, so it is claimed, he became converted.

Half-way through the piece there is an extended cadenza for the solo pianist, in this performance Gilles Grimaître, employing a number of theatrical gestures such as rubbing the strings roughly inside the instrument (he needs gloves for this) and putting his arm on the keyboard. The piece ends with a very loud and sudden climax – it is interesting cacophony, fun “music theatre” and was very well received. Full marks go to the orchestra’s accomplished marimba player, Klaus Schwärzler.

The second half of the concert was devoted to “The New World Symphony”, music that we all know well. Blomstedt managed to get us to listen to it afresh; it was truly exhilarating. Dvořák of course was a master of melody and Blomstedt allowed us to wallow; I have not heard the orchestra play better for a while with playing of precision and finesse. The opening Allegro was playful, the cor anglais soloist did a fine job in the Adagio, which was not too sentimental; there was plenty of rhythmic bounce and highlighted trilling to savour in the third movement and, to finish, an energetic and rousing Finale.

A wonderful concert: the orchestra stamped their feet in appreciation of Blomstedt. No doubt the orchestra’s management will be planning a return visit next season – long may he continue in such evident good health!

John Rhodes

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra at St John’s Smith Square’s 2017 Christmas Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • UPDATED! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • NEW! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H