Explosive Power from Israel Philharmonic in Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony

25/05/2016

Tchaikovsky, Wolpe, Shostakovich: David Garrett (violin), Jacob Reuven (mandolin), Heidi Steger (accordion), Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Omer Meir Wellber (conductor),  Frauenkirche, Dresden, 18.5.2016. (MC)

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; photo credit - Shai Skiff.

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; photo credit – Shai Skiff.

Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto
Michael Wolpe – ‘The Return of the Jackals’ for orchestra, mandolin and accordion with tape recording of jackal howls (world premiere of version for large orchestra)
Shostakovich – Symphony No. 6

When I saw violinist David Garrett taking the short 40 metre or so walk from his hotel to the Frauenkirche surrounded by four associates in the manner of a Hollywood A-lister I realised how concerts can easily become about the star performer. With no overture or prelude on the programme the concert opened with Garrett playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, a work he recorded as a teenager back in 1997 for Deutsche Grammophon released then with a cover photograph of him that one wouldn’t recognise today.

David Garrett; photo credit - Uli Weber.

David Garrett; photo credit – Uli Weber.

One of the most enduringly popular concertos in the repertoire Tchaikovsky wrote his Violin Concerto in 1878 whilst recovering from a nervous breakdown during a burst of activity inspired evidently by hearing Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole. It was a confident performance from Garrett with some beautiful playing of fluidity and satisfying intonation; containing plenty of panache. So far so good, but I didn’t especially enjoy how Garret on occasions would look around at the audience during his playing. Garrett made short work of the technical demands of the piece, yet I never felt there was any depth to his interpretation; it all felt a touch superficial.

Next an interesting orchestral work from Michael Wolpe ‘The Return of the Jackals’ for orchestra, mandolin and accordion with taped recordings of jackal howls. First performed in 2000 in Amman, Jordon this Frauenkirche concert was advertised as the world premiere of this version for large orchestra. Immediately I was reminded of film scores for Hollywood epics from say Miklós Rózsa to Hans Zimmer especially when the full orchestra joined in. Creating a slightly mid-eastern flavour the mandolin and accordion played for a short time unaccompanied but were virtually inaudible when playing during orchestral tutti. The taped jackal cries which burst out clearly and persistently from the speakers certainly created a rather unnerving atmosphere.

After the interval came the Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6, a work of real substance for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Omer Meir Garret and a chance to show its prowess. After his denunciation by the Soviet authorities, Shostakovich restored his reputation with his Fifth Symphony. Written in 1939 during the insecurities of an intense phase of Stalinist tyranny the Symphony No. 6 is quite a contrast to its predecessor. In it Shostakovich promised he would “express moods of spring, of happiness and youth.” Right from the opening bars of the first movement Largo Omer Meir Wellber created a sense of vast open spaces and a spine-chilling sense of desolation. Weller ensured there was a tremendous gathering energy to the central Allegro with a feeling of renewal that never quite felt genuine owing to an undercurrent of tension. In the Finale I was struck by the explosive power growing out of smaller ideas. A sense of risk-taking was present in the writing as well as some highly memorable folk inspired melodies. Especially noticeable here was the robust playing as Wellber whipped the orchestra into a frenzy, in the manner reminiscent of Solti, creating a nightmarish thrust of thunderous sound. Rather than a predictably triumphant ending here Shostakovich offered a touch of ambivalence. During the central and final movements Wellber became increasingly more animated on the podium almost dancing at one point which brought smiles to the faces of a number of the audience; even some laughter. Notwithstanding his overblown antics on the podium Wellber is destined for a great international career.

Despite the sterling efforts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the charismatic Omer Meir Wellber sadly the challenging Frauenkirche acoustic was always going to negate some of its wonderful sound. But more importantly the concert wasn’t all about David Garrett.

Michael Cookson

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! City Music Foundation July 2019 Summer Residency at The Wallace Collection __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River 2019 Festival __________________________________
  • 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! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • 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 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • NEW! MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces Winners of Emerging Dancer 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month