The Piano Concerto, which Arnold Schönberg composed in 1942 in exile in America, appears as a salute to late Romanticism under the law of twelve-tone technique. Autobiographical keywords on the first sketches: easy life in Vienna, hatred, new beginnings in the USA. These notes have not survived in the score. The composition, however, documents Schönberg’s spiritual home in tradition. The piano opens the piece and introduces the twelve-tone row that is binding for the whole.
In this concert by the Berlin Philharmonic, Mitsuko Uchida is the celebrated soloist. The joint performance reflects the fact that the pianist has had artistic ties to the orchestra for decades. Although revered above all as a leading interpreter of Mozart and Schubert, her repertoire also includes the second Viennese school. She plays Schönberg with her crystal clear tone and at the same time with sensitive expression.
Almost lovely in the first movement, eerily plunging into the scherzo, singing in the Adagio, concertante playful in the last movement, she adds her part to the orchestral movement, in which the individual instruments shine as soloists, with the great oboist Albrecht Mayer leading the way. Uchida interprets her solo, including the cadenzas, as a partner, as one voice among many, while her eyes constantly shift attentively between the notes on the piano and the conductor.
Andris Nelsons is at the lectern. He then conducts Symphony No. 7 by Anton Bruckner with the famous Adagio. The yearning tone poem reflects the fact that Bruckner received the news of Richard Wagner’s death in the middle of working out this movement. Thus, in the recapitulation, the mourning music “in memory of the most blessed, beloved immortal master” rises, the incomparable lamentation with the use of four Wagner tubas. Breathless tension prevails in the Philharmonie after the pianissimo dying movement.
The whole performance is a great moment for the Philharmoniker, in which the musicians are extremely committed: the flautist Sébastian Jacot plays with a great sound, then Albrecht Mayer again with all their art, the horn player Stefan Dohr, the trumpeter Guillaume Jehl, and – as a guest – the clarinettist Kilian herald.
In the case of 44-year-old Andris Nelsons, a development towards a more mature style of music-making is noticeable. Operatic has disappeared. He builds Bruckner’s cathedral from melodies with gestures that concentrate solely on the essentials. There is a lot of tenderness, but also attack. Watching the hands of the Maestro at work is a feast for the eyes because it comes from the heart of the music. The applause doesn’t want to end.
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