To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, the Society commissioned a bunch of works, which are having their world premieres during the 2012-13 season. Tonight’s concert in the Musikverein presented one of these works: Jetzt wohin? by Gerd Kühr, a setting of fragments from poems by Goethe, Heine, and Lichtenberg, with actor Ignaz Kirchner as narrator and the Singverein joining the Vienna Symphony Orchestraunder Fabio Luisi. As with soundbites, take a bunch of poetry fragments out of context and weld them together, and it is possible to say just about anything. It was unclear why the composer tried to do it this way. The music had quite original and impressive tone colors – no particular style, but building on the Austrian traditions both of romanticism and atonalism. However, because of the fragmentary nature of the work, the music never had a chance to develop. I would have liked to have heard much more. Thisa work needed less talking and more music – sort of like trying to listen to the radio in the car during rush hour.
After the intermission came Bruckner’s 7th Symphony. Luisi took the first two movements in a very non-robust reading, instead emphasizing some of the delicate sonorities in the strings and the flutes (many people forget that Bruckner wrote wonderful lines for the flute). This grew in some ways organically from the tone painting in the Kühr work, providing a nice link in the program. By the third movement, the Scherzo became a boisterous dance, and the fourth movement brought the evening to a triumphant conclusion.