Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Musikverein (Vienna)

Lindberg, Sibelius

My third concert of the day in the Musikverein, with Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, opened with a piece by the Finnish (ethnic-Swedish) composer Magnus Lindberg, whom I had heard of but never heard.  He is supposed to be one of the most creative of currently living composers, but under-performed.  The orchestra performed a piece called Corrente II composed in 1991-92.  I will indeed vouch for Lindberg’s creativity.  The work was not to my taste, but I am glad I experienced it.

This was followed by eight short pieces for violin and orchestra by Sibelius (six humoresques and two serenades), with a thirty-something Finnish violinist, Pekka Kuusisto, performing.  Kuusisto is supposedly a bit of a cult figure in Finland, and it is easy to see why.  He brought the house down with some virtuosic and idiomatic performances.  He then added a few extremely difficult solo encores of traditional Scandinavian melodies he had arranged.  I think if he had just kept playing for hours the audience would have stayed and kept applauding, but at some point he really did have to stop.

After the intermission we had the Sibelius 6th Symphony.  The Lahti SO is the quintessential Sibelius orchestra, and the audience appreciated it.  We got treated to more encores at the end, but no one could understand what Sarastre was saying when he introduced them, and no one near me recognized the pieces (although they sounded like Sibelius).

Tonkünstler Orchestra, Musikverein

Glinka, Prokofiev, Dvořák

My second concert of the day in the Musikverein featured the Tonkünstler-Orchester under Mikhail Jurowski.

The concert opened with Glinka‘s Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila, followed by Prokofiev‘s Second Piano Concerto, with Alexander Markovich, an obese Russian-born Israeli as soloist (because of his stomach, he can’t actually sit near the piano; fortunately his arms reach).  I did not know this concerto at all – never heard it before – and I dislike pianos generally.  But this was a find.  The piece is truly bizarre.  Markovich is a very charismatic performer with a twinkle in his eye.  I have no idea how the orchestra could manage staying together given the way the music jumps about, but Jurowski kept everything working.  Really a stunning performance, and they all (soloist, conductor, orchestra) deserved the thunderous applause.

After the intermission came a very good Dvořák 8th Symphony.  The Tonkünstler (which seemed enthusiastic and happy to be on stage) actually sounded better than the last two Symphoniker concerts I attened, which made me wonder even more what is going on with the Symphoniker right now.

Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Musikverein

Weber, Mendelssohn, Offenbach, Prokofiev

I moved into the Musikverein for the day, for three concerts back-to-back-back in the Golden Hall.  The first featured the Wiener Symphoniker and Dmitri Kitayenko.

I had never seen Kitayenko conduct in person, but know him from some fine recordings.  But this was the second concert in a row with the Symphoniker that I was disappointed with.  They sound perfectly fine, but the Symphoniker is too good to sound “perfectly fine.”  Fedoseyev (who conducted them last week) and Kitayenko (today) are both excellent conductors, and there was an obvious rapport with the orchestra (I know they love Fedoseyev, and I’ve heard him conduct them before with great results).  So I wonder what is up with that orchestra at the moment.

The performance today opened with the Oberon Overture by Weber, followed by the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (a 29-year–old Russian violinist, Mikhail Ovrutsky, was the soloist).  As a pre-intermission encore, they performed Hoffmann’s Kleinsack song from Offenbach‘s Tales of Hoffmann (I have no idea who the unannounced tenor was or where they found him – tenors don’t usually just pop up and sing encores when they are not in the program; voice sounded a little strained, maybe from lack of warm-up, who knows?).

After the intermission, German actor Gert Voss read a very funny short story by Thomas Bernhard in memoriam for the 20th anniversary of his death.  Then came Prokofiev‘s Peter and the Wolf, narrated by another apparently famous German stage actor, Sunnyi Melles.  She was dramatic, but missed a few cues, and read strictly from the script rather than providing the embellishments that are usual with live performances.  I suspect she never rehearsed and may have been reading it for the first time.

Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Musikverein (Vienna)

Raitio, Schumann, Sibelius

Although not well-known, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra is a fine ensemble, always worth marking in the calendar when it comes on tour, and especially to perform Sibelius.

Tonight it arrived for a two-day visit in the Musikverein, under Jukka-Pekka Saraste.  It opened with The Swans by Väinö Raitio, an eccentric early-20th century Finnish composer (actually, I think all Finnish composers are eccentric) – definitely glad I heard it and would go hear more music by him if I ever see it performed.

This was followed by Schumann‘s piano concerto, a piece I have not heard live since I played first trumpet in my high school orchestra.  But there is a good reason I haven’t gone to hear this piece live: despite a promising melodic first half of the first movement, it is an interminably dull work.  Not even a good performance can rescue this truly boring concerto (and this was indeed a good performance, with a Hungarian pianist, Dezsö Ránki, as soloist).

After the intermission, the orchestra performed the Lemminkäinen Suite by Sibelius, a work I am very fond of (and not performed often enough), and a fine performance at that.  The opportunity to hear something by Raitio and to hear Lemminkäinen are the reasons I suffered through the Schumann concerto, and were worth the suffering.  (Sibelius’ Valse Triste was the encore.)

Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Musikverein

Schubert, Wagner

The Wiener Symphoniker and Vladimir Fedoseyev are usually a good combination, but something was amiss.  The concert opened with Schubert‘s Death and the Maiden as arranged for orchestra by Mahler.  The Orchestra took some time to warm into the piece.  After the intermission came a selection of Wagner (Rienzi Overture, Tannhäuser Overture and Venusberg music, Tristan und Isolde Prelude and Liebestod).  Again, perfectly good performances, but a bit of a disappointment since the Symphoniker is better than just “perfectly good.”

I will admit that the Rienzi Overture was better than the last time I heard it live: in high school, when I was first trumpet in the orchestra and my sheet music disappeared before the concert forcing me to try to play an exposed difficult part from memory.


Vienna Chamber Philharmonic, Konzerthaus Mozartsaal

Mozart, Beethoven

Enjoyed Mozart (Overture to Idomeneo, King of Crete) and early Beethoven (his first piano concerto and his first symphony) in the Mozartsaal of the Konzerthaus.  The concert proved that Beethoven was a genius.  The Vienna Chamber Philharmonic performed, conducted by Claudius Traunfellner and accompanied for the concerto by pianist Till Fellner.


Wiener Jeunesse Ensemble, Akzent Theater

Krása, Brundibár

This performance of Hans Krása‘s opera Brundibár was staged in conjunction with the Vienna Jewish Community to commemorate Reichskristallnacht and an overabundance of German history on this day.  The opera was written by the Krása while imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, to be performed by children there, for which it was used by the Nazis in a propaganda film before the children, the orchestra, and Krása were deported further to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.

The Ensemble of the Wiener Jeunesse society performed tonight under Herbert Böck.