The Philharmonia on Fine Form Under Christoph von Dohnányi’s Wise Direction

10/06/2018

Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven: Arabella Steinbacher (violin), Philharmonia Orchestra / Christoph von Dohnányi (conductor), Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 7.6.2018. (AS)

Arabella Steinbacher (c) Sammy Hart

Haydn – Symphony No.12 in E, Hob1:12

Mozart – Violin Concerto No.5 in A, K219

Beethoven – Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op. 67

The first half of this programme reminded one of the great days of the Haydn-Mozart Society, under whose auspices the London Mozart Players and their conductor played works by these composers to packed Royal Festival Hall audiences. Though Haydn is well represented in chamber music concerts his symphonic works are now grievously underplayed in the larger concert halls. This seems partly to do with size – it now being thought that his symphonies are unsuitable for bigger ensembles. For this performance of the Symphony No.12 Christoph von Dohnányi used a medium sized orchestra, with, for example, ten first violins. He also had a harpsichord continuo in visual evidence, though its fragile timbres failed to break audibly through the scoring of strings, two horns, two oboes and a bassoon. No matter, for it was a delight to hear this charming work, which reminded us that Haydn wrote high-quality symphonies other than the late London series and those earlier works that are distinguished by having had nicknames bestowed on them. The Twelfth Symphony, though it is quite short and has only three movements, is by no means an apprentice composition, since Haydn was 31 years old when he wrote it.

At the age of 89 Dohnányi now sits down to conduct, but his energies seem unimpaired, for he directed a most characterful account of the symphony, producing some springy, elegant playing in the first movement Allegro, shaping an Adagio that was notable for its warmth of phrase and a delivering a high-spirited, lively Presto.

If the Haydn performance had given delight, then so did Arabella Steinbacher’s playing in the Mozart concerto. Not only was her technique superbly clean and controlled, but she produced the most beautiful range of tone colours that suited the music perfectly. Her rhythmic sense was unerringly well defined and her supremely elegant turns of phrase gave great listening satisfaction. You could almost feel the audience holding its breath in the experience of such artistry. Dohnányi and the orchestra gave her keenly appreciative support. As the programme note commented, Mozart left no cadenzas for this concerto, and it would have been good to have been informed about the somewhat elaborate versions played by Steinbacher.

No matter how often you hear it, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony always makes an impact in an adequate presentation, and Dohnányi’s reading of the score was a great deal better than that. As one might expect from this conductor it was a direct, strong interpretation. Repeats were observed, not only in the first movement but in the finale as well. This contributed to the quality of well-judged balance that the performance conveyed. The music was kept moving quite briskly, though there was no sense of undue drive or hurry, and some effective, though slight, expressive gestures gave extra life to the music’s natural rhythmic qualities. The playing of the Philharmonia gave evidence that this orchestra is now back to its best form after a slightly uncertain period of change. I hope that Dohnányi will continue to impart his wise direction on orchestras for years to come.

Alan Sanders     

For an interview with Arabella Steinbacher click here.

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments

  1. Stuart Hogg says:

    According to the programme booklet, the cadenzas in the Mozart were by Joachim.

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North’s Kiss Me, Kate Comes to the London Coliseum and Edinburgh __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2018 Season Begins Soon __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018/19 Birmingham Classical Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe Star in The King and I at the London Palladium __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 BBC Proms __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! How Our Grandparents Decided How We Should Listen to Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Abandoned Liszt Opera Sardanapalo Premieres in Weimar in August __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 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! 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! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! 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