Posts Tagged ‘Lise de la Salle’

The 2015 Season So Far – Some Comments

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

By: Frank Cadenhead

You are not likely to find Schoenberg at the center of a regular symphony concert in any season. The concert of December 4th of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, at the Auditorium at Radio France, with music of Brahms and Schoenberg, would be not high on my list except for one thing: the new Schoenberg opera, Moses und Aron, which just finished at the Bastille was far more engaging than I expected and the critically praised production also attracted a receptive audience. While his associate Alban Berg’s two operas, Wozzeck and Lulu, appear regularly in opera seasons around the world, Moses und Aron is still a rarity.

First, however, was the task of reaching the new Auditorium. With new security measures after the terrorist attack of November 13, the only access to the vast Radio France “Roundhouse” (a pet name for the building) was the main entrance, entirely on the other side of usual auditorium entrance. When the panting audience finally arrived, bags were checked, purses opened and passing through a scanner was part of the entry process. Security also kept the audience inside during the intermission, a surprise for those who anticipate their nicotine fix during the break.

Lise de la Salle, the soloist for the Brahms First Piano Concerto, is now a major star on the international stage and is well appreciated and familiar presence in Paris. Karl-Heinz Steffens, the guest conductor for the evening, was new to me. Steffens was Principal Clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic until 2007, when he reinvented himself aa a conductor. and his international career has, since then, moved sharply upward. He is Music Director of the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz in Ludwigshafen but has guest conducted major orchestras around Europe and Asia. In the opera pit, he has appeared with Berlin’s Staatsoper, La Scala and the Bolshoi.

First on conductor Steffens’ program was a lively view of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 2 composed with forces, except woodwinds and brass, reduced. Steffens’ rapport with the orchestra was palpable. The Brahms concerto which followed found Ms de la Salle in a mystic mood and those tempo variations were a bit of a challenge. Steffens and the orchestra managed, with some effort, to stay on the same path and the performance, rich with emotion, was warmly received.

I was not the only person in the hall who had not experienced Schoenberg’s 1937 orchestration of the Quartet No. 1 of Brahms. Premiered by Otto Klemperer and the Los Angeles Philharmonic the next year, it sounded like the young composer had both young Shostakovich and Rimsky-Korsakov looking over his shoulder during the composition. Schoenberg was clearly having brilliant and serious fun here and it is certainly one of his most audience-friendly works.

The experience I will remember is the ample pleasure of the last work. A pleasure for the audience who, according to their expressive applause, found the last work surprisingly vibrant and captivating. A pleasure also for the musicians, playing at a very high level, who you could see were having a good time with the virtuoso orchestration and their conductor. A pleasure for the conductor, whose debut in France made his name suddenly very important.

A real pleasure for the orchestra management too who won credit for taking a chance with new repertory and artist and succeeding beyond their expectations. It is good to know that the “Phil” has continued its profile as a place to hear new conducting talent. With inspired music director Mikko Franck and artistic adventure as the theme, one would hope that their future is assured