Another less satisfying sub for Chailly

As Riccardo Chailly was still not in the best form to conduct, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks invited another conductor for this huge program. David Robertson, an American conductor was brought in to conduct Luciano Berio’s “Rendering” (1989), and Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé.

My first impression of Robertson was there are a lot of influence from Claudio Abbado. Robertson’s gestures come mostly from Abbado including how he holds his left hand and the use of his chin, which are exactly like Abbado. As imitation is not always a bad thing, it would be more appreciated if the orchestra is actually responding to it. Is it a myth that a conductor has to cue every instrument or s/he would be considered a bad one? Well, unless you memorize the scores by heart, you would not want to give every cue. Robertson looked at different section almost every measure, which is pretty cool, but, he looked back down to his scores one second right after his short attention to the sections, which seems extremely busy. There was no doubt at all that the orchestra was playing together the entire time, and the flow was smooth, but the lack of musicality makes the concert somewhat boring, especially Daphnis.

Luciano Berio was a big surprise of the night. From the first glance of the description of “Rendering” – Re-Komposition eines Symphoniefragments von Franz Schubert, I could barely imagine how an Italian would do to complete an Austrian composer’s symphony. So Berio took fragments from the sketch of Schubert’s Symphony No. 10, orchestrated, used elements from Schubert’s other music, and added modern composition techniques to create a complete symphony. The idea is extremely cool and reminds me of the show I saw in Cincinnati conducted by Annunziata Tomaro. Various young composers like Danny Clay, Jennifer Jolly, Douglas Pew and others were invited to compose new music for each movement of Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of Animals. I am fond of this combination as it creates a different kind of art. “Rendering” is neither a classical symphony nor a modern symphony. If you think Mozart is too straight forward, and modern music is too unpredictable, there might be a good chance that you would love this “Rendering”.

“Rendering” started out with Schubert’s strong statement and led into atmospheric section, and that’s the pattern of the entire symphony. It is always alternating between a square-structured classical style music and atmospheric modern music. To me, this is a perfect combination as the “modern section” prepared the “classical section”, creating the atmosphere for the “classical section” to “show up”. It is more or less like watching a movie, where you have the background music and the conversations. Don’t get me wrong here, the background is essential, just imagine if the movies have only the speaking lines without any music. Berio’s transitions are extremely smooth, which you would not think of it as two different sections coming from different centuries.

I must say that the choirs in Germany have never disappointed the audience at all time. They sing with full passion and beautiful voice. As much as people would say the Germans are more “self-centered” than others in the world, it is surprising that their voices blend perfectly. I felt that the orchestra and choir could have performed the piece recently because they seemed to play like auto pilot. Another explanation is that Robertson is a great “rehearsing-conductor”, who is able to train the orchestra to play at a high level, except that his gestures are not fully connected to them.

Concert on December 1, 2011

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