Riccardo Muti and the Magical Trousers

GermanyGermany Mendelssohn, Schubert: Ruth Ziesak (soprano), Alisa Kolosova (mezzo), Saimir Pirgu (tenor), Michele Pertusi (bass), Riccardo Muti (conductor), Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Chorus, Herkulessaal, Munich, 20.12.2012 (JFL)

Mendelssohn-B.: Symphony No.4 “Italian”
Schubert: Mass in A-flat major, D 678

Riccardo Muti

Riccardo Muti gets bravos just for bowing before the concert. He does it so stylishly, granted… he bows, moves, even just stands, and certainly conducts with grace, aloof dignity, and the crease of his trousers always seems to fall just right. It’s magical, much like his hair. He’s the master of the gorgeously homogenized blend (vowel interchangeable, on occasion), and creates great nuance within that broad flowing, genteel sound he coaxes out of every orchestra and imposes on every composer. The concerts with Muti I’ve heard can be most economically described by how they deviate from that approach.

available at Amazon
F.Mendelssohn-B., Symphonies,
C.v.Dohnányi / WPh

available at Amazon
F.Schubert, 3 Masses, Offertorium et al.,
W.Sawallisch, BRSO, BR Chorus
H.Donath, B.Fassbaender, L.Popp, P.Schreier, F.Araiza, D-F.Dieskau et al.

For completeness sake: On December 20th it was the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony and Schubert’s A-flat Major Mass that he conducted. Usually the outcome of Muti’s doing, especially with this band, is CD-perfect stuff (though often not a CD I’d listen to after first encounter). Orchestras seem to follow him with eagerness second to none. In Mendelssohn’s case the horns and the less-accurate-than-usual violins made sure it wasn’t quite straight-t0-CD on this first of two nights. But that was more than made up for by the flute interplay in the second movement, highlighted by Muti, executed beautifully by Henrik Wiese and Ivanna Ternay.

Whenever Muti conducts the BRSO, the BR chorus is scheduled to perform also. One might think that the latter musical body—along with the RIAS one of the best choirs in Germany—is the real reason he has Munich on his itinerary. The combined forces performed Schubert’s rambunctious Mass in A-flat Major to muscular, impressive results.

Mezzo soprano Alisa Kolosova did not show up; she sent her public persona instead, with a face like a mask and a smile of frozen syrup. Her stand-in did a fine job, though, with that strong and smooth, pleasant low voice of hers, not effortless, with a bright corona, an occasionally breathy vibrato, and just the right amount of animalistic quality. Veteran Ruth Ziesak—substituting on short notice for Julia Kleiter, which might explain a brief moment of timidity early in the Credo—showed all the accuracy that her voice, devoid of any comfort zone left and right of the ideal line, needs. The Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu had little opportunity to show off his mellow, slightly congested, instrument, with chorus and orchestra going full throttle. Baritone Michele Pertusi had nice moments of clarity, even elegance in the Gloria, and elsewhere sounded like a Verdi baritone slightly outside his comfort zone.

Jens F. Laurson