Saturday, 8 October 2011

Andrey Boreyko and the Wiener Symphoniker

Musikverein, 1/10/2011

Wiener Symphoniker, Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Andrey Boreyko
Iwona Sobotka, soprano
Jadwiga Rappé, alto
Artur Ruciński, baritone
Brahms: Nänie, op. 82
Szymanowski: Stabat Mater, op. 53
Ives: The Unanswered Question (revised version from 1930-35)
Schubert: Symphony No. 7 in B minor, D. 759
I hadn’t heard of conductor Andrey Boreyko before this concert. A cursory Google search revealed that he failed to deliver after promising the world to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, but has won critics prizes in Germany for his non-conventional programming. Nänie and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater bear out the latter and I can only imagine that Winnipeg must have been more about personality or politics than musicianship, because this was the Symphoniker concert of the season to beat. Naturally not a single Viennese critic bothered to show up.

It was good to hear Nänie at the Musikverein. I find it the more inspired of the two late choral works and there’s an interesting historical connection with the hall.Boreyko began things worryingly, looking like a sped up video of someone measuring for curtains and subdividing like crazy. I struggle to fathom what message he was trying to communicate, but the singing and playing didn’t sound at all chopped up or indeed like the German Requiem (a tempting default for the Singverein) and that works for me. There was no sense of the music sounding obsessed with its inner workings either, which happens so easily with Brahms. The chorus was really great here: just a small moment of tenor strain, which passed quickly enough, and some impressively pp high soprano entries.

The understatement of the Brahms carried over well into the Szymanowski. His rapid arm movement all but gone, Boreyko handled this delicately, with no trace of blurring where there might have been muddy swathes of sound. All three soloists were curiously unaffected by the ‘ferne Klang’ singer’s curse of the Musikverein and their performances felt like a thoughtful, collective effort to do well by this underrated work. There was a clarity to Iwona Sobotka's Barainsky-like soprano which worked well in that moment with the oboe solo and alongside Jadwiga Rappé's dark, thick alto, despite the contrast in colour. Soloists for choral and orchestral works at the Musikverein don't often mesh like this.

The strings in the Ives sounded uncannily like a certain American symphony orchestra, which is unusual as the three major Vienna string sections don’t often shed their spots. Woodwind interjections weren’t as punchy as the norm, but sounded a great deal less contrived for it. Boreyko segued directly into the Schubert, a stunt I wouldn’t care for too often, but it wasn’t at all attention-grabbing and if a conductor is going to concatenate two works, there are worse choices. The first movement was strong, if never much more than respectably so. Boreyko was bolder in the Andante, which was more memorable even if the ideas weren’t always convincing. One of these was the emphasis placed on the dominant in all the V-I cadences (a case of reading and strongly disagreeing with Susan McClary?). The oboist who had done so well in the Szymanowski had a bit of a dodgy entry, coming in flat on the C sharp of the second theme. Boreyko dropped what he was doing to pick up the pieces and ended up making something special of the phrase that possibly wouldn't have happened otherwise. With no newspaper reviews and a tepid ovation, it's up to the orchestra to decide if we see more of him with them in the future. I hope that happens.

*Webern had a fondness for Brahms's more obscure choral and orchestral output, and conducted Nänie at the Musikverein more than once in his capacity as musical director of the Singverein der sozialdemokratischen Kunststelle, a semi-professional chorus run by the Austrian Social Democrats. In a move that makes this programme look timid, he once followed the Gesang der Parzen with Eisler’s Solidaritätslied.

No comments:

Post a Comment