Sunday, 19 April 2015

Music making of the very highest order (Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia)

Sibelius and Mozart (Vladimir Ashkenazy cond. Philharmonia)
The arrival of Ashkenazy to conduct the Philharmonia always means good news. This evening's performance was no disappointment. Yet, on this occasion, my joy had to be tempered by the fact that he was there only because Lorin Maazel had passed away. The late maestro always seemed to get a bit more out of the Philharmonia than any other conductor.
The programme opened with Sibelius’s Valse Triste, which was a beautiful  piece and warmed things up finely. Sibelius wrote it during a period of heavy drinking and debt- which he sold to the publishers for ready money.
Mozart’s fifth violin concerto was given an unpretentious but affecting interpretation by Eric Silberger. The De Montfort Hall was rather tame compared to inside an Icelandic volcano.7tr
After the interval, one of the finest performances I have heard from the Philharmonia. Sibelius No 2 is a magnificent work, and the brass-led version made the hills it conjures into mountains; streams into rivers. But the orchestra was on a tight leash, and things never spiralled out of control here as they might have.
It was written 1901-1902 and dedicated to Baron Axel Carpelan, a hypochondriac who lived very modestly. He wanted to be a violinist but his parents refused him permission. He broke up his violin and threw it in a river, and retreated into a world of books and music. Amongst other things Carpelan anonymously presented a bouquet of flowers to each member of the Helsinki Philharmonic dockside as they departed.
Ashkenazy, in an oblique way, did great honour to the memory of the late Maazel. His Also sprach Zarathustra in 2014 (details) will stay with me a very long time, I hope. I don’t want to forget his Sibelius anytime soon either.

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