United Kingdom Brahms, Mahler: Guy Braunstein (violin), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/ Kirill Karabits (conductor), Lighthouse, Poole 4.5.2016. (IL)
Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Major
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Kirill Karabits led the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in a magnificent performance of Mahler’s epic First Symphony enjoyed by listeners to BBC Radio 3 as well as the Poole audience who gave a standing ovation at its conclusion – and at the end of a very successful 2015/16 season of concerts at the Lighthouse.
For this concert the usual BSO strings’ layout was altered so that first and second violins were arranged to left and right of the conductor with cellos spread immediately in front of him, double basses switched to back left and harp to back right to give a gorgeous spread of sound so right for the two Late Romantic works in this programme.
Of Mahler’s First Symphony (and his Second), the composer wrote, “My whole life is in them. I have set down my experience and suffering…” A life’s experience is suggested in the music of this First Symphony with a concluding gigantic, triumphant battle against fate. Karabits’s vision was sensitive to its contrasting moods, his reading highly charged and rhythmically dynamic , starting quietly with those peaceful images of nature before three off-stage trumpeters prelude turmoil – music that beguiles, enchants, entreats, terrifies and thrills. Much is made of tunes from Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) and in the third movement, marked by Mahler’s fecund originality, embracing some bizarre counterpoints and startling effects, there is the use of the nursery song familiar to us as Frère Jacques. But it was that celebrated finale that thrilled so mightily: especially the contribution of an augmented brass section playing for all they were worth, including eight horns and an extra trombone and trumpet at the left of the orchestral platform plus a full trumpet section to right and a panoply of percussion including two sets of tympani, two bass drums (one with cymbal attached) and tam-tam.
Born in Israel, violinist Guy Braunstein is carving an impressive career as teacher, conductor, and soloist. He was the youngest person to be appointed concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmoniker in the year 2000 retiring from that position in 2013. He plays a rare violin made by Francesco Roggieri in 1679. His reading of Brahms blissful, melodic Violin Concerto was intense and soulful. Braunstein made the lovely melodies of the opening Allegro and the middle Adagio sing rapturously and unrestrainedly, and the finale’s music with robust good humour. He rose with aplomb to the formidable technical challenges e.g. multiple stopping, rapid passagework and challenging abrupt rhythmic variation. Karabits’s accompaniment combined fine precision with compelling musicianship.
A beautifully produced brochure detailing the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s 2016/17 concerts was available at this concert. This reviewer will be looking forward with great anticipation to some exciting music-making.