In a night of back-to-back concert events just lately, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra performed music that asks the large questions: Is there a God? What are we to make of warfare and dying? How can we understand the world round us?
But maybe the largest query was the one raised by the concert events themselves: What will the way forward for this orchestra appear to be beneath its new chief conductor, Simon Rattle?
These livestreamed performances, together with a 3rd final Friday — all available on demand from BR-Klassik — have been his first with this ensemble since he was named to the publish in January. And whereas they provided glimpses of the Rattle period to come back in 2023, they extra urgently offered an assurance that this glorious orchestra, beforehand led by Mariss Jansons until his death in 2019, might be in good arms.
The information that Rattle, a globally acclaimed British conductor, had been employed in Munich shocked the classical music world, as did the truth that he can be stepping down from the London Symphony Orchestra, the place his arrival in 2017 had been heralded as a homecoming. (He will keep on, partially, in an emeritus place.)
The motive for the transfer to Munich, Rattle has mentioned, is private: He needs to spend extra time along with his spouse, the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, and their kids, at dwelling in Berlin, the place he was the chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic from 2002 to 2018. But it’s tough to disregard the coincidence of Brexit, which he has sharply criticized and which took impact in January, threatening the livelihoods of British musicians who had benefited from the benefit of open borders. (Not for nothing did he also announce that he had utilized for European citizenship.) And it’s perhaps not so coincidental that final month, London officers scrapped plans for a much-needed new concert hall there — a undertaking with no higher champion than Rattle.
The development of a brand new corridor, and the complications that go together with it, await him in Germany. But, like the beginning of his tenure with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, that’s years away. In the meantime, there was one thing of a preview within the three current livestreams — contemporary-minded applications for the Musica Viva sequence, and a deceptively conventional one among works by Brahms, Stravinsky and Haydn. Rattle is a intelligent programmer, with an open ear and an unrelenting dedication to residing composers. And he has a present for, even an insistence on, readability inside chromaticism and complexity.
Crucially, the musicians seem to reply effectively to Rattle’s course, an affinity that most likely was honed throughout his appearances with the orchestra since his debut with the orchestra in 2010. Since then, he has recorded three albums with them: a typically irritating tackle Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” and burning accounts of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” and “Die Walküre.”
Rattle made extra of a press release, although, along with his newest concert events, which coated roughly 325 years of music historical past and opened on the Philharmonie within the Gasteig with a world premiere: Ondrej Adamek’s “Where Are You?,” an unruly tune cycle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. It was written for Kozena, and commenced along with her waving her arms in what appeared like a respiration train, then revealed itself as prolonged method — her vocalise matched by the primeval airiness of a flute.
In 11 songs that circulate collectively in an unbroken monologue, the soloist repeatedly wrestles with questions of religion, drawing on sources in Aramaic, Czech, Moravian dialect, Spanish, English and Sanskrit. Words are stripped right down to elemental syllables, repeated with chattering nervousness or extended with large, sirenlike vibrato. Occasionally the work’s modernist tropes, which peak with using a loudspeaker, are pierced by stylistic interjections: a fiddling people tune, Eastern idioms. There could also be a degree right here about common expertise, nevertheless it’s too typically muddled by the work’s impatient focus.
Who’s to say what results Adamek’s contrasts would have had in individual? Unlike soloists and chamber teams, orchestras are notably ill-suited for the digital performances made essential by the pandemic. Large ensembles are complicated organisms, at fixed threat of being flattened on-line. Video is ok as a doc, nevertheless it stays a poor substitute for the concert-going expertise.
That was particularly evident within the piece that adopted, Messiaen’s “Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum.” Premiered throughout the Gothic grandeur of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and supposed for huge areas, this work will be overwhelming, a imaginative and prescient of the apocalypse. But its resonance — acoustic and in any other case — felt stifled right here, clearly recognizable however inaccessible.
After that live performance, Rattle hopped throughout the Isar river to the Herkulessaal, the orchestra’s dwelling on the Residenz in central Munich, for a program of Purcell’s 17th-century “Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary” and Georg Friedrich Haas’s “in vain” (2000), which Rattle, throughout a pretaped interview, described as “one of the few pieces from this century that we already know will have a life for all the centuries afterwards.”
Rattle’s reverence for the Haas shone by in what amounted to a faultless studying of the rating, which requires a lighting scheme to match the shifting tones and textures, rendering any efficiency extra of an set up — at instances, in complete darkness. The expertise of “in vain” is restricted to the purpose of exploring, and raising questions of, the connection between a composer and musicians, and in flip the viewers. Yet as I watched the gamers navigate their devices blindly, I used to be sitting close to an open window, bathing within the heat of the noon solar and having fun with the freshness of spring’s awakening.
If there’s a profit to pandemic-era programming, it’s scale. Because of their relative security, works historically ignored due to their small dimension have flourished. Hence Friday’s livestream from the Herkulessaal, a program of acquainted names and less-familiar music: Brahms’s Serenade No. 2 in A, sweetly plain-spoken and elegiac; Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments,” its distinct threads gracefully and harmoniously entwined; and Haydn’s Symphony No. 90 in C, a bit of smushy at first however settled into with crisp playfulness.
The Haydn has a false ending: a joke on the expense of the viewers members, who typically applaud then snicker at themselves because the music goes on. With nobody within the corridor, the punchline fell flat, extra of a “heh” than a “hah.” But, as Rattle mentioned in an interview with BR-Klassik, he’s simply getting began on an extended journey with the Bavarians, and he plans to program Haydn, a private favourite, extra sooner or later. When that occurs, the symphony can tickle its listeners once more. Because they know that after the pause, the orchestra comes again. It all the time does.