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Monday, January 30, 2023

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Jan Lisiecki with the Potsdam Chamber Academy: The Hummingbird and the Elephant

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Antonella Manacorda enters the podium of the Konzerthaus in a manner that could be described as “elated” or “hectic”. As it quickly becomes apparent, she is primarily the latter. The head of the Potsdam Chamber Academy conducts with a nervousness – yes, one has to say: coarseness – in gestures that Franz Schubert’s 3rd Symphony in D major doesn’t do well.

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These early symphonies, which were only printed for the first time decades after Schubert’s death (by Johannes Brahms, who also had a bad opinion of them), can be treasures if you take them seriously, give them space and time to breathe, but not them wants to imbue with greatness. But Manacorda lacks differentiation and actually only sets a pace: Presto. It is puzzling what might have got on the Italian, whom one got to know as a great conductor, in the first half of the concert.

A thousand colors shimmer

Would Jan Lisiecki object to that? In fact, the Canadian pianist injects a good dose of calm into the action in Beethoven’s first piano concerto in C major. The nuance with which he plays is overwhelming: a thousand different colors, affects, tempi shimmer. From the tender beginning moments, Lisiecki can confidently develop a touch of unbelievable power. The cadenza in the first movement sounds so lively, mischievous and modern in his hands that at first you think it came from him – in fact it is also from Beethoven!

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Unfortunately, there is still an imbalance between the pianist and the orchestra. Even if everyone seems to pretend to get along well: Unlike Lisiecki, Manacorda insists on his percussive, forward-thrust image of Beethoven, so that the whole thing is more like a dance between elephants and hummingbirds than a concert. It hurts a bit to write that, especially since you have just experienced the Kammerakademie as a sensitive, agile and supple playing ensemble in Cimarosa’s “Il matrimonio segreto” at the Potsdam Winter Opera.

Everywhere threatened idyll

But the great thing about two-hour concerts is that there is always the possibility of surprises. Whatever may have been discussed in the “dressing room” – after the break the orchestra sounds as if it has changed. The conductor is doing something wrong if the hairs on the back of the neck don’t stand up when the eerily rumbling basses in Schubert’s “Unfinished”, the shaky semiquavers of the strings and then the common theme of oboe and clarinet do not stand up. Manacaorda does everything right here: finally he gives the music time to develop, finally there are the contrasts that were so lacking in the first half, plus happy wind solos – even if the impression of the horns is inconsistent, sometimes golden shimmer perfect , next to it.

No one could put the threatened idyll, the hard-fought, precarious happiness into tones better than Schubert. This is how the musical lines blossom, which tear off again and again, the horror, the descent into hell – and in the mind’s eye an ego that keeps writhing in terror and flees to the few islands of loveliness that this one has in music history so unique first sentence then has ready.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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