EFirst the “Hero Epic”, then “A Hero’s Life”: Those who lived within an hour’s reach of the Berlin Philharmonie could have both last Sunday: after the soccer World Cup final, where great words fell out of commentators’ mouths for the great struggle, then Richard Strauss ‘ Tone poem dedicated to the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester (DSO) with its conductor Robin Ticciati.
Now Strauss’s heroism has its own circumstances; the artist here was his own model. But because he had only just reached his mid-thirties and was more inclined towards Bavarian epicureanism than megalomania, one can also hear self-mockery over long stretches of the calorie-rich instrumented piece. At these points, Ticciati’s actually powerfully present, robust and rooted interpretation lacked a little distanced finesse to fully savor the great self and world theater of these seriously irresponsible things. In detail, however, there was plenty of listening pleasure – whether it was the bratty whining of the “adversaries”, the big brawl on “des Helden Walstatt”, which was fought more with beer mugs than foils, or, towards the more noble, in the melancholic, relaxed cor anglais idyll against end of the work.
Perhaps one could call Ticciati’s approach that of a sound hiker who constantly calls up and links new, episodic images that only come together in retrospect. Christian Thielemann, who had also had Strauss’s “Four Last Songs” in the program with the Berlin Philharmonic on the previous evenings, would then be a pilot who knows the route from the start and thinks of his flight from the end. In this case, of course, that did not apply to the program as a whole, where Strauss was stylistically embedded between the voluptuous, world-renouncing orchestral pieces from Richard Wagner’s “Parsifal” and Hans Pfitzner’s “Palestrina” – a whole paradise garden of blossoming Philharmonic sounds – but then the whole thing with Arnold Schönberg’s The kaleidoscopically chopped up orchestral adaptation of the Bach organ piece BWV 552 was followed by a conclusion that was also performed with powerful sound and verve, but was only mediocre in substance.
And it did not even apply to the song cycle as a whole, which in its sequence and meaningful titles is a subsequent publishing mystification (in fact, Strauss continued to compose even after the “last songs”) – but all the more so in the tension of each individual setting. When Thielemann kept the autumnal, twilight luxuries of the strings, woodwinds and horn lines sung in relaxed tempos in a lively flow on the one hand, but also carefully dampened them again and again, this probably served the goal of not emphasizing the flow of sound untimely to tear it apart and, as it were, still keep a reserve in reserve. Camilla Nylund as a singer, without whose empathy such a concept would not work, but who could also benefit from such warming clothing, thanked him in her own way: in some places she was so reserved that her voice literally blended into the orchestral sound as a glowing magic colour melted down.
It was tones of disappearing, falling silent and losing oneself that increasingly shaped the sound space and atmosphere after the introductory “Spring” in its melismus-spiked exuberance seemed a bit strained as a kind of stage-like outside view. But then came the end of the lines of a completely internalized introspection like in the “dying garden dream”, the movingly longing violin solo of the third song was reflected in the soprano’s voice like a silhouette and the mood of a melancholic and yet relaxed and grateful deepened more and more Having lived through everything until the final “Afterglow”: Here those “escape from the world and perfection” with which the composer had sent his hero into retirement as a game model fifty years earlier became a lived-through and sung-out reality.
Such tones were also found in the DSO Concerto: hardly in Strauss, but in Vilde Frang’s touching, introverted, passionate singing of Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor.
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