An enjoyable concert from Hélène Grimaud and the Camerata Salzburg at the Dresden Music Festival

GermanyGermany Dresden Music Festival 2024 [3] – Beethoven, R. Schumann, Mendelssohn: Hélène Grimaud (piano), Camerata Salzburg / Giovanni Guzzo (concertmaster /direction). Kulturpalast Dresden, 20.5.2024. (MC)

Hélène Grimaud (piano), Camerata Salzburg, and Giovanni Guzzo (concertmaster) © Oliver Killig

Beethoven – Coriolan Overture, Op.62
R. Schumann – Piano Concerto, Op.54
Mendelssohn – Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.11

This concert from the renowned Camerata Salzburg was directed from the violin by its Venezuelan-born concertmaster Giovanni Guzzo. Around 2011 I saw Guzzo play several times as concertmaster of the Manchester Camerata, he is certainly a committed leader. A programme comprising three Romantic German works included Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto played by guest soloist the celebrated French pianist Hélène Grimaud.

Opening the concert was Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture where the composer was inspired by dramatist Heinrich von Collin’s play Coriolan based on the Shakespeare tragedy Coriolanus after the Roman leader. The play soon vanished from the scene, and it is a long while since I last attended a concert containing the Coriolan Overture. Nevertheless, it is a spirited concert overture with many conflicting feelings including an unsettling pathos and forthright drama.

Next celebrated concert pianist Hélène Grimaud took to the stage with uncommonly warm applause from the audience, emphasising I guess how popular the French soloist is in Saxony. Grimaud chose to play the Schumann Piano Concerto a perennial repertoire favourite. It was his wife Clara Schumann the noted soloist who introduced the concerto in 1845 here in Dresden. I have heard several standard performances of the Schumann and from my experience few soloists can provide a special quality to the work where nothing is stereotypical with no sense of routine. Striking is Grimaud’s immaculate technique and polished phrasing. Grimaud played the concerto beautifully and made a most attractive sound, yet I was reminded that Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘with a place for everything, everything in its place’ and that’s what Grimaud’s performance felt like. Schumann was a quintessential Romantic and I was left wanting full-blooded romantic passion. In the Intermezzo I took issue with Grimaud’s painfully slow tempi that to me will never pass as emotional depth. Grimaud gave two encores, a piece from Rachmaninov Études-Tableaux, Op.3 and Silvestrov’s Bagatelle No.3.

Camerata Salzburg, and Giovanni Guzzo (concertmaster) © Oliver Killig

By the age of fourteen Mendelssohn had already written a set of thirteen symphonies and several other works intended for Sunday musicales at the Mendelssohn family Berlin home. Mendelssohn was only fifteen when in 1824 he completed his seldom heard First Symphony in C minor a work that included his first use of woodwinds and brass in the scoring. Cast in four movements the original third movement Menuetto can be replaced with a later orchestrated version of the Scherzo from his evergreen favourite String Octet, as was performed here by the Camerata Salzburg. Worth singling out was the delightful Scherzo that evoked an enchanted fairyland scene. Top-drawer playing from the Camerata demonstrated the First Symphony is a work worthy of an occasional place in concert, but it is not strong enough to be the final work in a programme.

With concertmaster Giovanni Guzzo directing from the violin the forty strong Camerata Salzburg displayed both top-drawer unity and intonation making a glorious, full sound. Guzzo’s expertise and enthusiasm seemed to galvanise his players to produce that extra element of energy and drive. Very taken with this enjoyable concert the audience applauded the Camerata Salzburg long and hard.

Michael Cookson

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