Nagano and Hamburg Philharmonic Impress In Buenos Aires

ArgentinaArgentina Wagner, Bruckner: Mihoko Fujimura (mezzo-soprano) and Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra / Kent Nagano (conductor), Mozarteum Argentino at Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 30.9.2016. (JSJ)

WagnerPrelude and Liebestod from Tristan und IsoldeWesendonck Lieder
BrucknerSymphony No.6 in A major

With the Hamburg Philharmonic – making its debut in Buenos Aires – and its musical director Kent Nagano – on his second visit – once again Mozarteum Argentino has brought one of the top musical events of the year to Buenos Aires.

Presenting two completely different programmes, of which this was the second, they fully lived up to the expectation. While the first concert was devoted to Strauss and Brahms, this second presented Wagner and Bruckner, opening with the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. In concert somehow one appreciates works such as these in a different way than when they form part of an opera and here maestro Nagano teased out all the expression from the opening notes to the building climaxes as they unfolded. In concert, the Liebestod make a natural complement to the Prelude, much like the two covers of a book and as it were bringing one back down to Earth from the sense of anticipation that had been built.

Another natural complement is the Wesedonck Lieder – the five songs that Wagner set to music while under the spell (although at just what level isn’t known) of Mathilde Wesendonck. In particular the third and fifth songs, ‘Im Triebhaus’ and ‘Träume’, were studies for Tristan. While commonly presented in orchestral form, as here, what isn’t so well known is that they were written for piano and were orchestrated by Felix Mottl, apart from Wagner’s orchestration of the fifth for a chamber orchestra. The Japanese mezzo Mihoko Fujimura offered a warm and powerful presentation, even if not always plumbing their full emotion.

Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony at 52 minutes or so is his shortest and contains all the characteristic elements for which he is known – the rhythmic motifs, for example here in the first movement reiterated 92 times, as Claudia Guzmán informs in her excellent programme notes, extended developments, majestic themes as are heard in the Adagio and Scherzo and in the Finale reminders of the earlier themes culminating in the first.

This is a work with which Nagano has had a long association, having recorded it more than a decade ago. This was apparent in this warm and expressive rendition, neither too slow and with little solemnity but nor too rushed as to appear banal, and the orchestra fully responsive. All in all an outstanding performance, after which – despite the insistence for one of a good proportion of the audience – an encore would have been quite out of place.

Jonathan Spencer Jones

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