Moritzburg Festival 2011 – Music making of breathtaking elegance and ferocity

GermanyGermany Purcell and Dvořák: Nicola Benedetti, Benjamin Schmid, Mira Wang (violin), Max Mandel (viola), Julian Steckel (cello), Antti Siirala, Andreas Haefliger (piano). Moritzburg Castle, Dining Hall, 12.08.2011. (LV)

Purcell: Trio Sonata No. 7 in E minor, Z 796

Dvořák: Piano Quintet in A major, op. 81

The well-heeled Moritzburg Festival patrons who filled the dining hall at Moritzburg Castle heard a performance of Dvorak’s Piano Quintet that transformed the music from merely a beloved to a fiery masterpiece. Seated on a narrow raised stage in a room festooned with dozens of the trophy antlers that were the natural province of a royal hunting palace, five musicians named Schmid, Wang, Mandel, Steckel and Haefliger dispensed with what little rehearsal they had been able to accommodate into the Festival’s busy timetable and showed that when the full range of Dvorak’s brilliant instrumental and keyboard writing is pushed to the limit, the result is music making of breathtaking elegance and ferocity.

While the string players were playing with over the top intensity and brilliance, Andreas Haefliger drove them further with piano playing of almost impossible inner clarity, dazzle and verve, reminiscent of and yet totally eclipsing his classic 1999 Decca recording with the Takacs Quartet. Afterwards, asked whether he had Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in his repertoire, Haefliger admitted it was not but that the incendiary nature of the evening’s experience was causing him to reconsider.

The abbreviated program, designed to accommodate a gala dinner featuring a four-course onslaught of dishes prepared by starred Dresden chefs, began with Nicola Benedetti, Steckel and Antti Siirala serving up their own starred menu of English delight, in keeping with the Festival’s English theme, as beautifully anachronistic as it was sumptuously delicious.

Laurence Vittes