Home Theatre Rouvali turns into the Hero in a provocative Ein Heldenleben with the Philharmonia – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Rouvali turns into the Hero in a provocative Ein Heldenleben with the Philharmonia – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Rouvali turns into the Hero in a provocative Ein Heldenleben with the Philharmonia – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United KingdomUnited Kingdom Beethoven and R. Strauss: Nicola Benedetti (violin), Sheku Kanneh-Mason (cello), Benjamin Grosvenor (piano), Philharmonia Orchestra / Santtu-Matias Rouvali (conductor). Royal Pageant Corridor, London, 8.6.2023. (MBr)

Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducting the Philharmonia © Sisi Burn

Beethoven – Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano
R. Strauss – Ein Heldenleben

On the subject of Richard Strauss, the Philhamonia Orchestra has both been blessed or doomed by a few of the nice conductors who’ve carried out the main tone poems in concert events with them. One of the crucial notable was of their remaining live performance with Lorin Maazel who, simply weeks earlier than his demise, gave a efficiency of Richard Strauss’s Eine Alpensinfonie for the document books; magnificent it could have been, however it divided critics and Straussians. Ein Heldenleben, which not often works on the excessive tempo Maazel utilized to Eine Alpensinfonie, did handle to coax Giuseppe Sinopoli and the Philharmonia into riskier floor – on the BBC Proms in 1990 – however till this efficiency with Santtu-Matias Rouvali and the orchestra I had by no means truly sat via one that nearly touched an hour in size. If the next recording (microphones have been in place) confirms my very own tough timing this Ein Heldenleben was simply wanting fifty-five minutes.

There’s a fascination with the in extremis in music that retains us hooked, though generally it has us making an attempt desperately to swim in opposition to every little thing we’re listening to. Armed with my pen I might have doodled away; as an alternative I wrote only a single line in my program booklet: ‘Has Santtu misplaced his approach in Strauss’? Rouvali’s grasp of this composer is, in reality, very a lot to my style; I additionally assume he’s a naturally gifted Straussian – and this isn’t one thing one ought to take with no consideration amongst at the moment’s conductors. All the pieces about his Strauss suggests Rouvali isn’t a younger man in a rush; however go to any Rouvali live performance and most of what he conducts isn’t rushed. This Ein Heldenleben, nonetheless, made me ask one other query which hasn’t fairly arisen earlier than in his concert events: what precisely is Rouvali striving for?

As with one other epic Ein Heldenleben, Sergiu Celibidache’s final efficiency of the work given with the Munich Philharmonic in March 1983, issues started to unravel in Des Helden Gefährtin, typically the longest of the six – though Strauss was imprecise about sectionalising the work in any respect. Rouvali’s felt each bit so long as the sixteen minutes Celibidache took – however he might nicely have taken significantly lower than that; Rouvali isn’t gifted with the flexibility to make music appear timeless as Celibidache, Leonard Bernstein or Carlos Kleiber have been. There have been three issues happening right here and never all of them have been in unison; Rouvali’s slackness made the music merely sound interminable – tempi have been so relaxed that it typically felt directionless, and orchestral entries between the violin solo appeared patched in moderately than spontaneous. However, the sheer voluptuousness of the Philharmonia’s enjoying, particularly within the love music, was extraordinary. Rouvali used his area nicely to lavish superb plangency from the solo clarinet, oboe and flute – however above all from the burnished glow of the strings. Nevertheless it was the violin solo, in these majestic cadenzas, of Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay which was most compelling; I haven’t heard a greater account of Strauss’s Pauline for a few years. Unblemished technically, he simply targeted on a searing portrait that was immense in characterisation. Flawless in his dealing with of the a number of arpeggios, treble-stopping, damaged chords, fast scales and two-part innovations there have been lashings of wit, coquettishness, wryness, and strokes of femininity to the tonal color.

Des Helden Gefährtin was the primary actual level within the efficiency at which I assumed what sort of Straussian Heldenleben Rouvali was striving for; one primarily based on this conductor’s imaginative and prescient of sound, and what I believe he might push this orchestra to do for him. If the ten double-basses have been a suggestion of the depth of tone he needed from the strings then he largely achieved this – though he missed it on the opening of Das Held which felt much less dramatic than it may need. Rouvali appeared to have selected 9 horn gamers – in opposition to the usual eight: seven trumpets, in opposition to the usual 5. Certainly, in most sections Rouvali’s instrumentation was bigger than the rating requests.

Basically, there could be nothing unsuitable with Rouvali’s Ein Heldenleben as a showcase for this orchestra at its collective peak. As a undertaking in sound it emerged with excellent readability of function. If all of the imposing grandeur had been hurled out in Der Held, then in Des Helden Widersacher the spitefulness and bitterness had been caricatured magnificently by the Philharmonia’s woodwind with bitingly articulated enjoying. Der Helden Walstatt shared a lot with each how Celibidache and Sinopoli took this specific passage within the work – much less a forensic march, extra a devastating battle to the demise the place actually every little thing earlier than you was mercilessly crushed. The load Rouvali utilized right here was monumental – extra akin to Shostakovich’s Leningrad, moderately than wanting ahead to Strauss’s personal Elektra. This was a extra graphic battle than regular – pizzicati actually exploded off the stage like incendiary bombs, and woodwind have been aimed like spears. Taken on the slower tempo Rouvali selected, this was a battle that was extra brutish, extra elemental, extra highly effective – however missing nothing in orchestral refinement in doing that.

With the hero ascendant, Ein Heldenleben reaches its best level on the majestic climax – that fusion of the Don Juan and Zarathustra quotes which Strauss so fantastically intertwines into a few of the most sweeping music he ever wrote. It reaches its summit on the Im zeitmas marking within the rating, and it was a mark of simply how expansive Rouvali’s efficiency had been that it took him virtually forty minutes to get there (it took Sinopoli thirty-four minutes in 1990). However that further time had so many compensations; the super quantity of element Rouvali put into getting there was ear-catching. The string phrasing alone was excellent, the magnificent peal on the horns, and the cautious stability of the harps from inside the orchestra. Des Weltflucht und Vollendung could be simply as strikingly performed. Rouvali gave us a wide ranging coda to the work – it was constructed up like an unlimited orchestral pyramid, with glowing orchestral textures main up in the direction of its remaining apex. Very good horns, ending in Diego Incertis Sánchez’s excessive E-flat, and, on the solo violin, Visontay’s low E-flat. Each gloriously, peerlessly, performed. May there probably be a bone of rivalry right here after such incandescence? Rouvali having his Maris Jansons second, maybe, and throwing in an unmarked second timpani stroke. Not Straussian, however very Rouvali.

In extremis this Ein Heldenleben had actually been. If at instances it appeared to flag, if it examined the very limits of endurance, it was a provocative interpretation that doesn’t simply evaluate with others I’ve heard in live performance in recent times. Rouvali is an uncompromising Straussian – mockingly the very type of one which this orchestra as soon as disliked a lot. There are issues about Rouvali’s Strauss that are considerably extra unsound or musically unsuitable than they ever have been with Sinopoli’s imaginative and prescient of this composer; however, Rouvali shares with Sinopoli that obsession for sound and element and this specific efficiency of Ein Heldenleben was wealthy with each to an uncommon diploma. And given the individuality and extremely private stamp on this efficiency I’m tempted to say that the Hero of this Ein Heldenleben wasn’t Strauss however Rouvali himself.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducting Beethoven’s Triple Concerto © Robert Piwko

The opening work for this live performance was Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Performed by three famous person British soloists – Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Benjamin Grosvenor – this was impressed casting. The Triple Concerto doesn’t at all times work with three equally nice gamers – the piano half, particularly, generally is a bit uninspired in locations, for instance, whereas the cello soloist can typically appear to be the dominant drive. Right here the chemistry was excellent, the three soloists maybe extra joyfully aligned as a correct piano trio.

What was notable about this efficiency was how free it was, how virtually improvisatory it grew to become. The Philharmonia had begun with essentially the most portentous of openings on wealthy, deep cellos and violins – however nothing like this might ever be replicated in both Kanneh-Mason’s or Benedetti’s enjoying in any respect. Each eschewed any type of darkness of tone, opting as an alternative for brighter, much less weightier colors. Grosvenor, too, was fleeter, his pedalling extra carefree.

The piece isn’t as closely virtuosic as Beethoven’s different concertos – the piano half notably so. However the cello half is gloriously written and Kanneh-Mason was quicksilvered and beguiling within the capricious triplets and scales. When enjoying with Benedetti within the brief, however wealthy, Largo they established a compelling synthesis. If the lengthy opening motion had taken all three soloists to moments of ardour and ranges of inward self-reflection, then throughout the Rondo there was an excellent playfulness on show from all three of them. The Triple Concerto dates from across the similar time because the Eroica – if there are minor themes of heroism on show within the work, it was a testomony to the joyfulness of the efficiency that it remained a distinctly anti-heroic, solely humane one.

The encore was an eloquently performed association of ‘Danny Boy’ for threesome.

Marc Bridle



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