American Night at the Munich Philharmonic

GermanyGermany Dvořák, Sibelius, Janáček: Joshua Bell (violin), Alan Gilbert (conductor), Munich Philharmonic, Gasteig Philharmonic Hall, Munich, 19.10.2011 (JFL)

Dvořák: Golden Spinning Wheel
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Janáček: Sinfonietta

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J.Sibelius & K.Goldmark, Violin Concertos,
Bell, Salonen, LA Phil

American Night at the Munich Philharmonic: Alan Gilbert, the New York Philharmonic’s Music Director and America’s (and every American concert presenter’s) sweetheart-violinist, Josh Bell were the musical executors. Joshua Bell hasn’t the same draw abroad that he has at home, but his Sibelius Concerto before a solid subscription crowd at the vast Gasteig Philharmonic Hall was—rightly—very warmly received. The size and richness of his sonorous—and in any case beautiful—sound, surprised happily, and the performance was not just strong, clean, and responsive but at points downright daring. Orchestra and soloist were left stumbling along here and there, only to get secure footing a few seconds later—and element that added considerably over the possible alternative of charming and impeccable harmlessness. Very entertaining stuff, especially in the first and last movement—well received, too, and with pauses between the movements that made bronchial specialists hear up in eager anticipation of brisk business.

The orchestra started the night with Dvořák’s Golden Sinning Wheel—for which Gilbert first threw the ‘Romantic’ switch that would remain in the same position the same night… producing a pleasing (if not exactly exciting) mono-culture gorgeousness. In Dvořák’s case it made the tone poem sound more like a bronzen mill wheel. The work itself is mature Dvořák at his charming best, with a touch naïveté and Mendelssohn (Second Symphony) thrown in from the seasoned composer. It’s also a surprisingly gay for a story about dismembering a young girl and gouging eyes out of her head before severing it. (You know… the typical European fairy tale stuff.) Was it anticipation of the concerto that made some moments right before the kitschy end sound darkly Sibelian?

Janáček’s “Sinfonietta”—a small symphony for large orchestra—got is five movements nicely wheeled out in that night-long bold romantic style, with the military fanfare of the opening well approximated by the battery of Munich brass; a stylish finish for a robust night out at the symphony.
Jens F. Laurson