Glinka, Schostakowitsch, Tschaikowsky
Sometimes tickets come available late for the subscription-only concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic. I got one such ticket this afternoon, giving me a seat in the percussion section between the cymbals and the bass drum. No kidding. At least no Mahler was on the program, although my ears are still ringing a bit.
Semyon Bychkov took the podium for an all-Russian concert. The chronically-ill Mikhail Glinka spent a Summer in Vienna, where he came for medical advice and to take the cure in Baden. During his stay he met Johann Strauß (the father) and Joseph Lanner, who inspired him a few years later to try his hand at a waltz. In a sense, Bychkov brought the Waltz-Fantasie home by having the Philharmoniker (not only the world’s best orchestra, but the world’s best waltz orchestra), perform it.
Kirill Gerstein joined the orchestra for the second piano concerto of Dmitri Schostakowitsch. This is a tuneful work with a degree of charm, but written by Schostakowitsch during one of the many periods in his life when he was subject to artistic persecution. While recognizably music by Schostakowitsch, it is perhaps less daring than it should be. From my seat in the back of the orchestra, I also did not experience it as much of a concerto – the piano part seemed somewhat under-written and blended into the orchestral tones. Gerstein gave a long solo encore to demonstrate his agility (I could not hear his announcement of what he played – it was not a showy piece, instead rather melancholic, but it did allow him to demonstrate versatility).
After the intermission came Pyotr Tschaikowsky’s Symphony #6. Bychkov captured the composer’s depression. While the orchestra carried off a flawless performace, I did not get the sense that I learned anything new from this reading. However, I did learn some new things about cymbal technique.