EIF music review: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Conductor Mariss Janson was energetic on the podium, but the orchestra was lacklustre, if still competent
Conductor Mariss Janson was energetic on the podium, but the orchestra was lacklustre, if still competent
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BRAHMS, Strauss, and Wolfgang Rihm might all be German composers but the tenuous musical links between them made for a mixed bag of a programme by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

EIF: music

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Star rating: * * *

Despite Mariss Janson’s energetic exhortations on the podium, the orchestra turned in a competent but disappointingly lacklustre performance of Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn.

A lack of cohesion was also a problem in Rihm’s 2009 piece for violin and orchestra, Lichtes Spiel: Ein Sommerstuck (Light Play: A Summer Piece) with soloist Leonidas Kavakos. There were few opportunities for the violinist to demonstrate his technical dexterity and gorgeous tone in a piece dominated by wispy harmonics and stray notes rather than fully grown phrases. Restless and fragmented, the work flirts with dissonance but frustratingly doesn’t quite commit, engendering the worst kind of response in a listener, that of indifference.

The orchestra visibly relaxed and upped their game in the challenging and ebullient tone poems of Richard Strauss. While there were still a few smudged edges and entries and a sense of an orchestra on autopilot in Tod und Verklarung (Death and Transfiguration), it was a completely different story in Till Eulenspiegel. Here at last was the sharpness and tonal warmth for which the Concertgabouw is renowned as well as playfulness in spades.

The horns and clarinets brilliantly captured the cheeky swagger of the mischievous hero Till with the rest of the woodwind and brass contributing some witty banter to this colourful story told with great panache.

Seen on 28.08.14