martes, octubre 07, 2014

The polemical Orchestra of Sound Administration

            Probably the weirdest name in the world of interpretation of symphonic music is the Orchester der Klangverwaltung München; literally, the Orchestra of Sound Administration, Munich.  For in fact it merely describes what an orchestra is; to take it as their name indicates a deep-seated desire of the founders to be considered prime examples of that talent.

            It was founded by the violinists Andreas Reiner and Josef Kröner in 1997 and they are still with the orchestra as concertmaster and assistant concertmaster. Their aim was and is to "interpret the extraordinary musical conceptions of their Principal Conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg". The hand programme also states that "the members belong to the main symphonic and operatic orchestras, such as the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics", plus Munich players and others from chamber groups mainly from Germany.

            They also inform that they play instruments by great luthiers such as Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati, Guadagnini and Gofriller.  Obviously this orchestra assembles itself only in certain periods of the year (probably the Summer months).

            The Orchestra paid us a visit some years ago and left a good impression. Of course it came with zu Guttenberg, already known here for his interesting Bach performances with the Neubeuern Choir.  In the current visit they are replacing the originally announced debut of the Bruno Walter Symphony Orchestra under Jack Martin Händler, but they have kept the soloist, pianist Stefan Stroissnig (debut).

            Perhaps because Stroissnig´s choice was the long "Emperor" Concerto by Bweethoven, the programme was finally overextended. With normal speeds, the initial Beethoven Overture Leonore Nº 3 lasts about 14 minutes, the "Emperor" about 41 and the monumental Bruckner Fourth Symphony, "Romantic", close to an hour. But the conductor made me think of the illustrious but controversial very slow Bruckner presented here years ago by the Munich Philharmonic under Sergiu Celibidache. Indeed, zu Gutteenberg´s Fourth clocked 73 minutes! And if you add that the pianist played a substantive encore (Schubert´s Impromptu Op.90 Nº 4) lasting about seven minutes, we had an unusual total length of two hours and fifteen minutes! Plus the intermission, of course.

            No wonder there was a feeling of restlessness as Bruckner´s solemn and grandiose music proceeded. There´s the habitual problem with Bruckner symphonies, that of multiple editorial versions of his symphonies, due to the uniqueness of his style that disconcerted so many of his contemporaries and causes problems even now, and the composer´s easily influenced personality led to numerous revisions. In this symphony such is particularly the case of the fourth movement, and I well remember the surprise of local music lovers when decades ago the Vienna Symphony under Rozhdestvensky played the original version, so different from the one usually heard.

            Nowadays the normal thing is to follow the postwar Nowak edition for the Bruckner Society. My own score is a pre-war relic with no specification,  and I had a hard time following it. In BA we´ve heard quite a number of admirable interpretations and they have normally lasted about an hour: Masur with the Gewandhaus, Barenboim with the Chicago, Mehta, Van Otterloo with the Colón Orchestra, Moralt with the Radio del Estado Orchestra... And the same goes for most recordings. But the fact remains that Celibidache (who did other symphonies) was deeply impressive with slow speeds, and zu Guttenberg didn´t convince me in the same degree, although I certainly respect his work.

            Was it a matter simply of basic tempi? Well, yes, partly; but what impeded proper flow were the exaggerated silences (they are in the score but not so long) and also some fragments taken too solemnly (yes, "Feierlich" is of the essence in Bruckner, but one mustn´t forget that he thought as an organist and that his peculiar orchestration feels like organ registers in a church). Now, all was done with undoubted honesty, commitment and energy by a very complete musician, and the orchestra is of truly distinguished quality, particularly the brass. Maybe shorter pieces in the First Part would have made this long Bruckner give a less lengthy effect.

            I liked the Leonora, it was strong, beethovenian and had reasonable tempi; the only thing was the trumpet fanfare, played not from afar as indicated but from an upper floor of the Coliseo in this Nuova Harmonia concert: it was way too loud though precise.

            As the "Emperor" Concerto went on, I had the distinct feeling that it had lacked enough rehearsal, for there were both bad joins and moments where the presence of the orchestral soloists was too dim. Stroissnig, now 29,  after some initial hesitations found his best form and showed a good mechanism (fine octaves) and sensitive phrasing in the quieter fragments, but I think his sound is rather small for this concerto, he would have been much better in the Second or in a Mozart.

            In fact, I enjoyed his playing very much in the Schubert Impromptu, light, charming, with the right amount of give and take; he had shown little charisma until then, so this is apparently the proper style for him.

            All in all, a concert that made me think hard about problems of proper speeds and of the need for intensive rehearsal in concerti.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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