Saturday, March 16, 2013

More Apollo Than Dionysus

I heard the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski, twice last week. On Sunday, Vadim Repin was the spell-binding soloist in Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor. The performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 after the intermission was intelligent and nuanced, more Apollo than Dionysus.

Then on Monday Hélène Grimaud performed a highly individualistic performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The first movement was more frilly than strong. The second slow movement made up for the first. It sounded the depths, I thought. In the last movement, she seemed to be fighting against the music instead of playing it. It was a remarkable display of a fine musician imposing her will on a mighty music. I heard the Concerto in a way that I had never heard before, but was it Beethoven? 

I did not care for Mahler's Symphony No. 5 performed after the intermission. The orchestral effort was heroic: the five movements added up to 72 minutes in all. But the music sounded theatrical and grandiose. The emotional contents were overwhelmed by the enormous means at hand. If Romanticism privileges sentiment over style, whereas the Baroque prizes style over sentiment, Mahler seems to be that impossible creature, a baroque Romantic.

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