Plush Strings of Luxembourg

Philharmonie in Luxembourg

Published: December 31, 2014

MUNICH — Lëtzebuerg Stad, a.k.a. Luxembourg-Ville, population 100,000, holds a spiffier position these days in the musical firmament. Its orchestra has graduated from the legendary but somewhat seedy aegis of Radio Luxembourg — once a commercial thorn in the national broadcasting sides of France and Britain — and now operates as the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg in an arresting white 9-year-old hall on a rock, a mile from the Grand Ducal Palace. Credit local economic prosperity, with new bases for Amazon, Apple, Cisco, eBay, Microsoft and more, not forgetting the Cour de justice de l’Union européenne (the E.U.’s Supreme Court), whose duties and lawyer count expand with each passing budget.

The metamorphosis has blessed the ensemble with a glowing and intense string sound, evident all through a MünchenMusik tour stop here Nov. 19 in the (awful) Gasteig. Guest conductor Joshua Weilerstein let the strings speak eloquently for themselves in Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye (1911); woodwind contributions varied in quality. Nudging the pace here and there and supporting legato lines, Weilerstein brought coherence to the suite, and charm, notably in Petit Poucet, the movement about the boy whose breadcrumbs vanish. On the concert’s first half, the Luxembourgers demonstrated lively partnering skills for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (1806) and soloist Hilary Hahn, who established her authority from the moment she entered. Fresh, alert, technically brilliant, she chose ideal tempos and mustered considerable drama, her tone pleasingly full, her fingering secure. As rousing conclusion came Gershwin’s An American in Paris (1928). Here however, with the extra brass and possibly varying ideas about how to swing, coordination three or four times faltered, and conspicuously.

Photo © Ministère de l’Économie du Luxembourg

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