Review: Barenboim Delivers a ‘Stellar Performance’ at Carnegie Hall
By Jose Andrade, Contributing Writer, February 1, 2017
January 27th at Carnegie Hall was day 7 of New York’s first Bruckner symphony cycle, which brought us Bruckner’s popular Symphony No. 7 and Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin. Having attended an excellent performance on the first evening of this cycle, my expectations were quite high entering Carnegie Hall, and once again, Maestro Barenboim delivered a stellar performance of both works.
With the date also sharing the anniversary of Mozart’s birthday, programming his Sinfonia concertante was a fitting start to the evening. Barenboim employed a decidedly lax opening, belying energetic conducting in the allegro portions of the opening movement. Without use of a baton, he allowed his body to give cues with his hands, indicating more of a feeling to the orchestra rather than tempo. The work of the two soloists, Staatskapelle Berlin’s concertmaster Wolfram Brandl and principal violist, Yulia Deyneka, resembled a vocal duet, each responding to the other’s playing effectively in soft and loud passages. The orchestra successfully mirrored each soloist, with the horns very distinct in their reserve. The Adagio was quick, with Brandl and Deyneka avoiding sentimentality while alternating in a breathtaking melody. A vigorous Presto kept both soloists busy keeping pace with Barenboim.
Maestro Barenboim’s overall direction of Bruckner’s herculean Symphony No. 7 was one of quiet authority, allowing his ample forces to move seamlessly from one theme to another. Now employing a baton, his conducting was mostly conventional, but at times he would sit back with the orchestra playing unhindered, joining in for an emphatic punctuation to a phrase or a downbeat. A subtle opening gave the cello section a more pointed delivery that eventually melded into the strings. In the first movement finale, he was careful to not drown the audience, with drums appropriately muted.
Written in honor of Richard Wagner’s death, the second movement began with a hazy element of dread. But this second movement was far from sad, more like a celebration of life rather than an end. A very memorable solo towards the end of the movement suggested more was underneath the ambiguous opening theme with the horns carefully building upon it. The violins played a seemingly different theme than the horns, both themes surging forth and ebbing until they both resolved into a triumphant synthesis at the end of the movement.
The third movement was decidedly jovial, a moderate Scherzo, broader in scale then the first two movements, but gradually built up steam almost as if the joke was on the audience. Barenboim began the fourth movement very lyrically with a mellow sound, gradually giving way to daring and impetuous touches. With the final theme established, having reached a huge climax with a grand pause, in an almost rushed fashion he brought this great work to an exciting and emphatic conclusion.
New Yorkers can now say we are privileged to have experienced our first Bruckner symphony cycle, and through the artistry of Maestro Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, we are all the better for it.
Staatskapelle Berlin in concert at Carnegie Hall on January 27, 2017. Daniel Barenboim, Music Director and Conductor; Wolfram Brandl, violin; Yulia Deyneka, viola.
MOZART Sinfonia concertante in E-flat Major, K. 364
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 7
Cover: Daniel Barenboim with the Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall; photo: Jennifer Taylor