Christoph von Dohnányi, longtime Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra and frequent guest of the Vienna Philharmonic, used to comment that his orchestra in Cleveland played every note perfectly, yet he was still trying to get them to sound more like the Philharmonic, which did not play every note perfectly. It’s not just about playing perfectly, but performing the music with a certain emotion in the notes, and something the Philharmoniker gets better than anyone. So hearing the Philarmoniker this morning perform in juxtaposition with the Clevelanders on Friday reinforced exactly what Dohnányi meant.
It of course helps to have Mariss Jansons on the podium, which ensured intelligent readings that maximized the orchestra’s ability to add its color. The two halves of the concert had little to do with each other (“sometimes they do not have to” Jansons explained at a talk here last week). But we got Mozart‘s Piano Concerto #22 and Bruckner‘s Symphony #6 on either side of the intermission.
Emanuel Ax performed as soloist for the Mozart. He and the Orchestra created a soothing, almost melancholic, tone, which both blended well and with the contrasting lines informing each other. For a matinee concert, this was a good way to start a morning.
The Bruckner symphony after the intermission was more lively. Probably the least performed of Bruckner’s mature symphonies (and the only one he did not revise), it was actually my favorite among his works when I was a child. So this made for a nostalgic day-after-birthday concert. At his talk last week, Jansons was asked why he chose Bruckner’s sixth: he replied that the Festival had offered conductors a selection of works premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic to perform with that orchestra at the Festival over several years, and he was slow deciding until many others were already taken. But he nevertheless appreciates this symphony and its construction, as do I, even if we have moved on to others. One can picture Gustav Mahler giving the symphony’s premiere with the Philharmoniker in the Musikverein three years after Bruckner’s death.