Compelling and Stimulating Concert from the Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie

GermanyGermany Dresden Music Festival) 2019 [4] – J.S. Bach, Bruch, Haydn, Yinon, Shostakovich: Emmanuel Tjeknavorian (violin), Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie / Wolfgang Hentrich (conductor), Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden, Germany, 3.6.2019. (MC)

Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie (c) Kai Bienert

J.S. Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048
Bruch – Serenade after Swedish folk melodies, Op. posth
Haydn – Violin Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIa:1
Shir-Ran Yinon – ‘Vivid’ for string orchestra
Shostakovich – Chamber Symphony, Op.110a (transcribed from String Quartet No. 8 by Rudolf Barshai)

Some decades ago, as a fledgling concertgoer I was wary of concerts by student orchestras. Experience has shown me that I was often missing out on marvellous performed music by orchestras I should never have underestimated. This concert at Hochschule für Musik, Dresden was one such example, being compelling and stimulating from start to finish.

Ranging from eleven to nineteen years old, the young players of the Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie are selected by audition and come together to play four to seven concerts each year. For this Dresden concert its chief conductor Wolfgang Hentrich had selected a programme of five composers: J.S. Bach, Bruch, Haydn, Yinon and Shostakovich; works separated by almost three hundred years. A harpsichord was used in the J.S. Bach work but otherwise all the instruments were strings including a complement of eleven cellos and four basses. 

The opening work J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 got the concert off to a flying start with an ebullient performance with noticeable clean and crisp playing with minimal vibrato. In recent decades with the advent of period-instrument performances it is usual to see far smaller ensembles and today this performance with around sixty or so players would be regarded as big-band Bach, yet it worked splendidly communicating a distinct fresh feel to the music.

Bruch’s Serenade after Swedish folk melodies is a work when encountered people will say why haven’t I heard this before and on cue I heard that said at this concert. Published posthumously this is certainly a fine, five movement work full of contrast although it could never be described as plumbing great emotional depths. My highlights were the opening movement a March played with an especially strong and deliberate tread and the penultimate movement marked Andante sostenuto in the manner of a pastoral, infused elegy reminded me of string works by Howells, Parry and maybe Grieg.

A skilled violinist himself Haydn wrote his delightful Violin Concerto in C major for Alois Luigi Tomasini who was to become concertmaster at Esterházy. Soloist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian is not only a splendid player he also has a strong stage personality and the audience clearly took him to their hearts. This was an assured performance by Tjeknavorian who demonstrated impressive technical control together with an innate capacity for artistry. Lodged in the memory was the playing of the Adagio a lovely sweet cantilena communicating a gentle melancholy.

Shir-Ran Yinon composed her work ‘Vivid’ especially for the Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie who gave its première in 2016. This eight-minute score made quite an impact, it seemed over in a flash and at times I was reminded of the music of Grieg and Nielsen. Without the benefit of a seeing a programme note my impressions are of an easily accessible work that abounds with nervous energy across wide dynamics. It was good to see the composer called to stage to take her bow. A few months ago the Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie recorded ‘Vivid’ at Berlin to be released on the Genuin label.

Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.8 from 1960 has a strong connection to Dresden. Bearing a dedication to ‘The Victims of Fascism and War’ it was written in a just a few days whilst on a working trip outside Soviet Russia to the Communist State of East Germany near Dresden. Shostakovich had seen at first hand the destruction that bombing had inflicted on Dresden which must have significantly influenced the writing of the quartet. Here the audience was treated to Rudolf Barshai’s highly successful transcription of the quartet known as the Chamber Symphony. Striking was the anger and level of torment communicated by the players in the ferocious short second movement Allegro molto, attacca. Making a significant impression were disturbing fortissimo chords that open the fourth movement Largo, attacca followed by music of a profound, unsettling quality that easily expresses weariness and disaffection. A feeling of wretchedness and disillusionment is also infused in the Finale marked Largo, maybe reflecting Shostakovich’s own mental state. Sadly, during the performance, the spell was broken by the ring tone from someone’s mobile phone.

The level of performance of the Deutsche Streicherphilharmonie was outstanding and not just for a student orchestra. There was a little too much micro-managing from Wolfgang Hentrich for my taste, yet the orchestra players responded royally and clearly have great respect for their conductor. Rarely has everything in a concert seemed so satisfying.

Applauding long and hard the audience were rewarded by an encore of Elgar’s Nimrod but after such an affecting performance of the Shostakovich Chamber Symphony anything else was an anti-climax.

Michael Cookson

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