Manfred Honeck and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra sound magnificent in Dresden

GermanyGermany Dresden Music Festival 2024 [8] – Tarrodi, Sibelius, Dvořák: Daniel Lozakovich (violin), Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra / Manfred Honeck (conductor). Kulturpalast Dresden, 26.5.2024. (MC)

Manfred Honeck conducts violinist Daniel Lozakovich and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra © Oliver Killig

Andrea Tarrodi Camelopardalis, for orchestra
Sibelius – Violin Concerto, Op.47
Dvořák – Symphony No.8 in G major, Op.88

A Swedish composer based in Stockholm; Andrea Tarrodi has written a range of music including more than thirty orchestral works. Tarrodi completed Camelopardalis in 2010 a commission by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra which premiered in 2011 at Cape Town, South Africa. Lasting some eight and a half minutes the score evokes a beautiful dream that Tarrodi had about a giraffe that she rode away on into the sky. Camelopardalis is a Latin name for a constellation in the northern sky that represents a giraffe, and its song is depicted by a wailing bassoon. At first hearing the score reminded me of the soundworld of Finnish composer Rautavaara. The slowly gathering momentum led to a loud climax followed by a scene of relative calm before fading away, then the whole design is repeated. Played beautifully by Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under Manfred Honeck with the bassoonist earning top marks, this was an enjoyable Tarrodi work, worthy of attention and ideal for opening a concert.

In the last couple of years, I have attended concerts of the Sibelius Violin Concerto four or five times. I am not sure if it has always been as popular, now it might be classed as a warhorse of the concerto repertoire. As a violinist himself, Sibelius at one time auditioned as a player for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 1903 completed his Violin Concerto. At its hastily arranged premiere a replacement soloist was ill-prepared and the concerto was poorly received. Sibelius withdrew the score, made substantial revisions and in 1905 the revised version was introduced by Karl Halir with Richard Strauss conducting. In 2017 I recall a riveting interpretation of the concerto by Henning Kraggerud with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Jacek Kaspszyk at Preston. Then in 2022 at Blackburn I relished the performance of soloist Francesca Dego with the Hallé conducted by Jiří Rožeň. This performance at Kulturpalast Dresden from the assured and elegant Swedish soloist Daniel Lozakovich although well played was slightly disappointing. Lozakovich didn’t produce the level of tension contained in the finest performances, and that feeling of Nordic chill was absent.

For my money Manfred Honeck is one of the world’s greatest conductors. Ideally, I would have wanted to see him conduct a major work by Bruckner, Mahler or Richard Strauss. Nevertheless, Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 in G major from 1889 is a splendid score. It is a work infused with bucolic elation likely inspired by memories of the fields, forests and hills around the composer’s country home in Bohemia. Knowing the work well, in 2014 Honeck recorded the symphony with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on Reference Recordings and described the score as ‘a special jewel’ of the repertoire. The opening movement had a fresh, exuberant feel expressing vivid and appealing Bohemian rural scenes. Reminding me of a miniature symphonic poem, Honeck’s Adagio evoked a river journey winding its way through the Bohemian countryside. In the manner of a dumka, a Slavic folk ballad, the Allegretto grazioso had less of a melancholic feel I often encounter and Honeck’s approach was more carefree, warm, and sunny. The trumpet fanfare that opened the magnificent Finale led to the main theme, first heard on the cellos, that became a notable set of variations. I found the entire movement exhilarating.

Under Manfred Honeck the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra sounded magnificent and I hope it is not too long before I attend another of his concerts.

Michael Cookson

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