The LSO Welcome Christian Tetzlaff and Susanna Mälkki at Short Notice

14/03/2017

Brahms and Strauss: Christian Tetzlaff (violin), London Symphony Orchestra / Susanna Mälkki (conductor), Barbican Concert Hall, Barbican Centre, London, 12.3.2017. (AS)

Brahms – Violin Concerto in D Op. 77
Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra Op. 30

The prospect of hearing Janine Jansen play the Brahms Violin Concerto was something very much to look forward to, as was the intriguing potential of her collaboration with the mercurial Valery Gergiev, whose performance of the Strauss work cannot have been anything than of great interest.

Alas for the LSO management and for the Barbican audience, both these artists had been laid low by illness, and Christian Tetzlaff and Susanna Mälkki stepped in at short notice to take their places with an unchanged programme. That Tetzlaff has the Brahms concerto in his bones, so to speak, was clear, since he played the work confidently from memory.

In the case of the Finnish conductor, Susanna Mälkki, making her LSO debut, one can’t be quite so sure. She will have taken over at very short notice and maybe – it would have seemed imprudent to make enquiries – she had had to master both scores very quickly. In this circumstance her performances should not be considered in the same light as if this concert had been part of her regular schedule.

To her advantage is the fact that she has the clearest of baton techniques and she conveys her wishes to the orchestra with apparent total confidence and conviction. No doubt that confidence has been boosted by her recent rapid rise through the conducting ranks, for she is now Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, and has recently appeared with the Philadelphia, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and Cleveland orchestras, not to mention prestigious European ensembles.

Her conducting of the Brahms concerto will have been to a large extent designed to accommodate the style and approach of her soloist. Within these imposed limits she obtained an alert and efficient response from her players.

That Christian Tetzlaff has a virtuoso technique is without question. His intonation seemed faultless, and he played with tremendous energy. But he has, to this listener’s ears, an unwontedly strenuous style, and he produces an unpleasingly abrasive sound quality: the lady in the next seat, not known to me, not unfairly described it as “scratchy”. And he is always pushing at the music; he never allows a paragraph or phrase to flower and speak for itself. Even in the slow movement there was no feeling of warmth or spirituality, and in the finale there was no sense of uplifting, boisterous “Hungarian” rhythms. It was all bustle and haste.

It was interesting to compare Mälkki’s performance of Also sprach Zarathustra with the one given by Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, heard at the Royal Festival Hall almost exactly a month ago (review). That performance was characterised by warmth of orchestral tone and expression: the conductor seemed fully in love with the music. Mälkki is a noted exponent of contemporary music, and her approach to Strauss’s score was somewhat detached and analytical, as if she was viewing its romantic style with the experience of having absorbed more recent and objective styles of composition.

She was at an immediate disadvantage in that the Barbican’s electronic organ was painfully inadequate in its contribution towards the effect of the work’s mighty opening. Thereafter her conducting, though efficient, failed to convey that peculiar sweetness that inhabits Strauss’s lyrical passages, or the mountainous majesty of the work’s climaxes. The eerie, troubled quality of the work’s quiet ending sounded merely soft and anti-climactic.

But again one has to bear in mind that this was a situation where the conductor probably had little or no time to absorb the work’s deeper aspects: her primary task was to get the players to play the notes and to obtain a good balance of sound. That she undoubtedly did.

Alan Sanders       

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Season at the Royal Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018 Cheltenham Music Festival – 30 June to 15 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Staatsoper Unter de Linden in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! St Petersburg Ballet Theatre Bring Swan Lake to London in August __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces its 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Booking Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Additional Tickets Now Available for Nevill Holt Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Four-Day Celebration of Art Song in April 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere by Novaya Opera of Pushkin – The Opera in the Theatre in the Woods __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella in Cinemas on 15 May with Live Q&A __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H