NEW WORLD SYMPHONY
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS/ HARALD HORTH/ MICHAEL WERBA/
RAINER HONECK/ TAMAS VARGA/ RINNAT MORIAH
SCHUBERT, BERG AND THE LYRICISM OF VIENNA (4-26, 27-08)
By Lawrence Budmen
Viennese music of two very different eras continued to resound at the Lincoln Theater on Saturday and Sunday as the New World Symphony concluded its mini-festival focusing on the works of Franz Schubert and Alban Berg.
Michael Tilson Thomas’ soulful, ruminative interpretation of Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (Unfinished) commenced Saturday’s program. T he conductor stressed high drama and an aura of tragedy through the melodic glories of this two movement torso
Berg’s cataclysmic Three Pieces for Orchestra (in the revised 1929 version) was a jolt to the senses after the well ordered world of Schubert’s romantic discourse. The dark forebodings of Mahler’ s late symphonies are never far from Berg’s hallucinatory creation
Even when the composer suggests a lilting waltz in the second movement Dance Round, the Viennese charm turns to horror. The ominous final March then recalls the concluding movement of Mahler’s 6th Symphony, complete with repeated hammer blows of fate from the percussion section. Tilson Thomas offered an illuminating performance of this early 20th century masterwork, marked by lucidly delineated timbral variation and vast dynamic and tonal spectrum.
Berg’s cataclysmic vision was preceded by Haydn’s lively Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat Major for Oboe, Bassoon, Violin, Cello and Orchestra. This score’s gentle classicism is miles removed from the Schubert’ s intense lyrical impulse and Berg’s dark pronouncements from the Second Viennese School founded by Arnold Schoenberg.
Four first chair players from the Vienna Philharmonic (who coached the players during rehearsals for the festival) brought authentic style and élan to the solo parts in Haydn’s streamlined model of a Baroque concerto-grosso Vienna’s concertmaster Rainer Honeck (brother of conductor Manfred Honeck, a frequent New World guest) exhibited beguilingly sweet tone and the subtlety of a veteran chamber music player. Michael Werba’ s bassoon produced an unusually large, full bodied sound. Harald Horth phrased the oboe solos eloquently but his tone was somewhat thin and reedy. Tamas Varga offered an agilely focused, singing cello line. The in vigorating verve of the Allegro con spirito finale was joyous indeed.
On Sunday Israeli soprano Rinnat Moriah proved a star in the making via the two vocal solos of Berg’s Suite from Lulu (1934). With a high, pure, silvery sound and radiant expressiveness, this young singer will be perfect for soubrette roles in the operas of Mozart and Strauss.
Tilson Thomas evoked surges of sensual energy in Berg’s symphonic synthesis of playwright Frank Wedekind’s tale of a tragic femme fatal. A jazzy saxophone suggested the 1920’s Berlin cabaret music of Kurt Weill and Hans Eisler.
Tilson Thomas’ supple version of Schubert’s monumental Symphony No.9 in C Major was a rousing conclusion to the festivities. From the broadly spun opening horn solo to a whirlwind finale that gathered incredible momentum until the final triumphant C major chord, the conductor offered Schubert of the most patrician variety. G lowing tonal hues from winds and cellos turned the Andante con spirito into a rhapsodic song without words.