Tschaikowsky, Rautavaara, Sibelius

I spontaneously decided to see if there were available seats for the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Fabio Luisi, and snatched one.  Hard to believe, but this was my first concert in Vienna in the year 2010.  Worth hearing, but in the end nothing special.

Concert opened with the Tschaikowsky first piano concerto.  The polymath Tzimon Barto performed as the soloist.  I have seen him perform before in Vienna, and had enjoyed his enthusiasm.  However, this time was a bit heavy-handed, and he certainly reminded me why the piano is, after all, a percussion instrument.  Luisi was better at giving the orchestra a lighter touch, but he too backed up the soloist’s interpretation.

After the intermission, we were treated to Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Apotheosis.  This piece is actually a reworking by the composer of a reworking of a reworking of an earlier work, so it has been fully thought through.  It serves as a reminder that modern music can be quite original in experimenting with new tonalities while still qualifying as music.  Rautaavara was born in Helsinki in 1928 and wrote the Apotheosis in 1996 (the original work on which it is based was from 1987).

The concert concluded with the Sibelius 5th Symphony.  The juxtaposition after Rautavaara’s Apotheosis was quite useful.  For while Rautavaara writes original modern music, it is sometimes hard to remember that Sibelius did too in his day.  Since Sibelius’ music was heavily influenced by Schubert and Bruckner, and had a general Finnish brooding, Luisi’s interpretation accented its modern tonalities, which he enhanced by performing it after Rautavaara’s work.  On the other hand, Luisi did not capture the long lines of Sibelius’ work, and I found the tempo a tad too fast for my taste.

The Vienna Symphony Orchestra sounded excellent, especially the woodwinds and the solo cello.


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