Too many notes at the Royal Festival Hall

Mozart's 36th Symphony (the 'Linz') may have been composed and fully written out in five days (history is not completely clear on whether it was indeed this symphony). However it betrays no sign of haste, being confidently composed and neatly and logically constructed. Yesterday evening at the Royal Festival Hall the Bavarian Radio Syymphony Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons gave an intelligent and lively performance: however my usual reservation applies - too many violins, and the inevitable use of modern woodwind alters the balance and makes the scoring sound rather bland. Once you have heard the spring in the step that results from the more cutting sound of period woodwind and a smaller string section even a sensible use of a modern orchestra (no string vibrato and hard sticks for the tympani) still doesn't quite realize the work's potential.

Mozart's symphonies are tautly constructed (despite the Emperor of Austria's 'too many notes' jibe): one could hardly say that of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, the other work in the concert, which runs for an hour and ten minutes. I've never been a great Bruckner fan: he is too fond of the trick of repeating a bar over and over, and then shifting it up in pitch and repeating it over and over yet again. If the performance is not carefully calculated this tends to sound like a string of GarageBand* loops. Fortunately Jansons exercised excellent control over the work. building the tensions convincingly and making the most of the lush use of orchestral colour. Played like this the work is indeed appealing and involving. But it does have too many notes.

*GarageBand is Apple's music creation program: it comes with a library of rhythmic loops which fairly unmusical users can use to create their own pop tunes.

Posted: Sun - November 30, 2008 at 09:00 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM