Dusapin, Mahler, Dvořák
I have taken to generally going to hear the annual Young Conductors Award prize concert each year at the Salzburg Festival to see what name might be coming down the line. Hungarian Gábor Káli won the competition last year, so he got the honors of the concert in the Felsenreitschule this year. His is definitely a name to look for in the future.
The Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra has not been particularly distinguished in recent years, never seeming to have quite recovered from an attempt by the Austrian radio (for whom it works, after all) to shut it down during the 2009-2010 season. But I don’t believe I have heard it sound this good since before its near-death experience. Káli gave it real character this evening, its playing evoking feeling and emotion.
For Mahler‘s Songs of a Wayfarer, baritone Andrè Schuen added his own warm, expressive tone, telling stories both with clear diction and intelligent nuanced singing (I definitely want to hear him again too!). Káli and the orchestra were right with him for support, the song cycle erupting into full color. After the intermission, Dvořák‘s Ninth Symphony built to another level. This was not just the homogenized (if decent) sound I have come to expect from this orchestra, but rather more lilt and theatrics, as it used to sound ten years ago. From the podium, Káli clearly had taken charge, and the orchestra happily and enthusiastically followed (so did the audience – he earned a long well-deserved applause).
The only part of the concert that made no sense was the first piece: Morning in Long Island by Frenchman Pascal Dusapin. Dusapin wrote this piece in 2010 based on the memory of a particularly bleak Fall morning he had spent on Long Island in 1988 that had clearly stuck in his mind all that time. His moody music quite successfully portrayed the gloomy weather and damp chill, so that the audience certainly experienced his 1988 morning too. The main problem, though, was that this went on for half an hour. While the music evolved and shifted a bit, it never got around to saying anything more than the weather, which we already knew.