Giornale della musica
Stefano Jacini
(translation by Alexander Martin)
Beethoven: 9 th Symphony, Lucerne, 10 August 2007
Lucerne opens with Beethoven's Ninth conducted by Abbado and a tribute to Tarkovsky
The festival of Lucerne kicked off on 10 August to the notes of Mahler's First, in an interesting transcription for organ and brass by Wolfgang Sieber. Following this the authorities spoke of Europe, of its cultural polyphony, of shared values (strange considering how Switzerland is not yet a part of it); then came Ligeti's Ballad and Dance for Two Violins, followed by a long ironic speech by Péter Esterhazy (descendent of the historical family) on the predicament of communist Hungary, interspersed with pieces from the Duo for Two Violins by Bartok and closing with his Allegro Barbaro transcribed for organ. Officialdom has its rituals and requires patience. In the second half of the evening, after a crowded cocktail party overlooking the lake on the first floor of the auditorium, the inaugural concert itself got underway. Keeping to the theme of Europe, Beethoven's Ninth was performed by the orchestra of the festival and conducted by Claudio Abbado. The performance immediately eliminated any hint of rhetoric still hovering about in the house. Abbado's interpretation was of the type that increases in appeal and importance over time. The way in which he underlined the solid construction of the third movement while leaving unblemished its cantabile nature was truly remarkable and totally out of the ordinary. This really was an unforgettable moment. Everything worked like a charm, with contained dramatic gigantism in the first part, absolute lightness in the Scherzo, then the miracle of the third accompanied by tangible emotion in the house, and the rigid analysis and sonorous transparency of the last part with total control of the percussion section in the finale, which often sounds more like a band under different conductors. Soloists Melanie Diener, Anna Larsson, Jonas Kaufmann, and Reihard Hagen were of superb quality as was the chorus of the Bayerischen Rundfunks. Enthusiastic applause at the end, with Abbado almost hidden among the musicians and behind the soloists, and a long standing ovation at the end when he reappeared alone on stage. The evening of 11 August, dedicated to the memory of Andrei Tarkovsky, took place in the Luzernsaal, a room on the ground floor of the auditorium, which sometimes opens the wall opposite the stage when there are rock bands. The programme was identical to the one Claudio Abbado conducted in 1991 at the Musikverein of Vienna for the Wien Modern cycle, only that it was in reverse order, preceded by the projection of a sequence by Andrei Rublev, that of the casting of a bell (an unforgettable moment in the films of the Russian director): first bidlos/weglos by Wolfgang Rihm, with the composer in the house and celebrations at the end, then Face de la chaleur by Beat Furrer, who conducted the Ensemble of Lucerne through his own piece and three others. Following this came What is the Word by Gyorgy Kurtag, without a speaker owing to the indisposition of the actress, and No hay camino by Luigi Nono. Apart from the enchanting acoustic spatiality, created by the position of the musicians (on three or four sides of the house), all the compositions in the end sounded relatively dated. At the end of the concert, as packed as could ever be hoped for in Italy, the tribute to Tarkovsky moved to the large Konsertsaal, with Bruno Ganz who read a passage from The Sacrifice, a story written by the director himself, which was then made into a film by the same name — the last. This was then followed by a performance of Nostalghia by François Couturier. The composer was at the piano, accompanied by cello, accordion, and saxophone.

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