The programme’s conceptual underpinnings were plausible enough on paper: Zimmerman unpacks and expands Webern while preserving his tightness of motivic construction; Scriabin gives Wagnerian themes of longing, will and self-assertion his distinctive impressionistic, mystical gloss. In practice however, the strongest impact made concerned three big climactic high-points, and the way they bring about endings which attempt to rise above earthbound musical finality. Wagner does this by packing Isolde off to the eternal bliss of self-obliteration (as Slavoj Žižek once put it); Zimmerman with a ‘never-ending’ intensification of sound (his description); and Scriabin by positioning his radiant ecstasy of C major at the end of the Poème de l’Extase as a transcendental breakthrough. One constant at the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, which auditions every year, is their massive forces – forces which dispatched these epic culminations with astonishing power and vitality.
The Wiener Staatsoper may have reverted to old habits as soon as Claudio Abbado prematurely quit as GMD, but his reforming stint in Vienna at the end of the 1980s left behind two fledgling musical organizations which have since flourished into institutions with formidable reputations: Wien Modern and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. The latter is now on its 25th Easter tour and I reviewed their Vienna stop for Bachtrack. Between this Webern op. 6 and Berlin’s new Lulu it has not been a great Easter for the Second Viennese School, but the rest of the programme was impressive: much exciting playing, Iréne Theorin taking the packed stage in her stride for the Liebestod, and promising conducting from David Afkham. Click here to read more.
Image credit: Chris Christodoulou