R. Strauss, Stravinsky
After a break for coffee and cake, I returned to the Musikverein for the Vienna Symphony with Fabio Luisi. I recognized a lot of people at the second concert from the first, so maybe others are catching on to my methods.
This orchestra enjoys a clear rapport with Luisi, its chief conductor since 2005, and has sounded fantastic in recent years. No doubt he has them well-trained. Luisi’s own performances are reliable, but never rise up to anything that would bring down the house. I suppose the guest conductors must do that, thankful that Luisi has the orchestra in top form. But even if his performances may not shatter the earth, they do provide high-quality musical entertainment.
This evening’s concert opened with an extremely playful rendition of Till Eulenspiegel by Richard Strauss. Luisi coaxed sumptuous tones from the orchestra while keeping the pace light. Then Pianist
Rudolf Buchbinder joined the orchestra for Strauss’ Burleske for Piano and Orchestra, composed shortly before Till Eulenspiegel, and in some ways a study for it with its good-humored pacing and instrumental dialogue. Buchbinders fingers must have broken some world speed records – I am not sure my fingers could move that fast even if it were not necessary to hit the right notes. He, on the other hand, made it look effortless.
After the intermission, Stravinsky’s Petrushka sounded a logical connection to the first half of the program, particularly in Stravinsky’s 1947 reworking. The fairground setting of the ballet drew from the Straussian experience, adding new dissonances and contrasts, and making the most of the orchestra’s many talents showcasing their solos. With this orchestra, there was no need to stage the ballet, since the lines themselves danced right up to poor Petrushka’s tragic end.