Classical review: Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Perth Concert Hall

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BEING a child of the former East Berlin, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra is a band we are perhaps less familiar with than its famous West German counterpart, the Berlin Philharmonic.

But let’s not get into comparisons here, for the evidence was all too clear in Perth last night, especially in Weber’s overture “Der Freischütz” and Brahms’ First Symphony, that the BSO has a charisma of its very own.

It may be something to do with the lasting influence of Kurt Sanderling, who made the orchestra a legend during his directorship in the 1960s and ‘70s. But that would be to imply something nostalgic about the style of playing we heard in Perth under Munich-born conductor Alexander Liebreich.

This Brahms was cooked to perfection – sinewy, tender and melting to the touch; red hot, but never overdone. The opening allegro burst into life with a glorious combination of clarity, density and blistering energy.

Liebreich basked in the tender glow of the slow movement, shaping it’s liquid contours with seamless generosity. After the sunny exuberance of the scherzo, the finale powered homewards with pulverising inevitability.

All this came after an equally distinctive performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto by the amazing 21-year old Alfred Brendel protégé Kit Armstrong. There was never any wallowing in Romantic sentimentality here, but a perceptive awareness of the collision of personalities that was Schumann, which often finds its outlet in this concerto, and which Armstrong conveyed with beguiling conviction and cool showmanship.

Rating: *****