Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bliss is...

...being in Georgia, with not much to do, and watching the Berlin Philharmonic via the internet. It worked, nearly for the whole concert (picked from the archive). If I can get that elsewhere in the world, this subscription will really be worth it.

It was a concert of works by Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Schumann, conducted by Heinz Holliger with Thomas Zehetmair as the violin soloist. I meant only to watch the Schumann, but hit the wrong button and got the whole concert. That was actually quite interesting, and I am glad I did. I don't think I had ever heard or seen Heinz Holliger, who, like Arthur Scargill, wears a weasel across his head, and seemed rather underdressed in his lounge suit. Holliger, to me, is more known as an oboist, with a bent towards contemporary music

Zimmermann, I had always thought, would be an avantgarde type of composer, but in fact he is very tonal. His Alagoana (Caprichos Brasilieros) had quite a few West Side Story type elements - did he filch from Bernstein? They might be a nice piece for the Simon Bolivar orchestra to play, lots of rhythms, tunes, percussion...a tiny bit long, though, for a piece at the beginning of a concert.  His violin concerto was awesome, also fairly traditional in structure and very technical. Zehetmair played it with such ease and panache!

Schumann always gets me here (points at heart). I'm not sure why this is - I feel quite sorry for him and the struggles he had, with his mental illness (bipolar disorder, some people say); and at the same time he expresses his aching love in his music for his Clara; someone worked out, in the 1960s, that Schumann had a code where alphabetic letters were expressed by notes, and then identified the word 'Clara' in many of his pieces. Zehetmair joined the orchestra for the Fantasy for violin and orchestra (op 131); it was beautiful!

And finally the first symphony, with hints towards his wonderful Konzertstück for 4 horns. Schumann must have really liked the sound of horns; in some way the use of bright brass in the 19th century was more of a French thing to do (Berlioz); maybe the Rhinelander Schumann was influenced by French music. Also a great performance (what else can you say about the Berlin Phil); Holliger was a tiny bit irritating - he's a very active conductor, with much body movement. I wondered if that came from being an oboist - oboists and clarinettists tend to sway about in a way that, say, brass players could not risk to do.  But it was a lovely, lovely concert, all the better for having it accessible in the furthest corners of the world.