Karabits’s Mendelssohn ‘Reformation’ Symphony – a Revelation

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn: Johannes Moser (cello), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Kirill Karabits (conductor). The Lighthouse, Poole, 5.4.2017. (IL)

Schubert – Symphony No.8 in B minor ‘Unfinished’
Tchaikovsky – Variations on a Rococo Theme
Mendelssohn – Symphony No.5 in D Major ‘Reformation’

Mendelssohn’s ‘Reformation’ Symphony has always been overshadowed by the popularity of his Scottish Symphony No.3 and, especially, his Italian Symphony No.4. The ‘Reformation’ languished in near obscurity until quite recently. Its true value is only now beginning to be appreciated. Karabits’s reading was a revelation —it fully realised the monumental fervour of its proud declaration of the Lutherine doctrine. The outer movements were magnificently shaped. The opening movement dramatically evoked the clashes between the old faith and the new, with contrasting understatements of the Dresden Amen that Wagner would so tellingly employ in Parsifal. The finale with its powerful, exalted setting of Luther’s chorale — A Mighty Fortress is our God — sounded affectingly magnificent, with the woodwinds and brass mighty indeed.

Karabits had organised his orchestra with the violins to left and right, cellos in front of him and double basses and so on, left. The result was a luscious spread of string sound. This was entirely appropriate for Schubert’s ever popular, lyrical, ‘Unfinished’ Symphony. Under Karabits’s direction, it sounded fresh and compelling; the lighter warmer episodes of the opening Allegro moderato contrasted sharply with the following darker turbulence.

Tchaikovsky’s sunny, eminently accessible Rococo Variations must be one of the most popular works of its genre. The soloist, Johannes Moser, chose to perform Tchaikovsky’s original version of the work rather than the more often performed Fitzenhagen edition of the score. Moser was previously acclaimed for his interpretation of this work. His reading was technically secure without over-showy virtuosity. His polished, nuanced playing, every note clean and clear, fully expressed the work’s elegance, grace and nonchalant humour. Karabits and the BSO delivered a perfectly blended and nicely balanced accompaniment.

A truly memorable concert, with the BSO on top form.

Ian Lace

This concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

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