The last time I saw Blomstedt was in 2010 at Frankfurt when he conducted the Mahler Youth Orchestra performing Bruckner Symphony No. 9. My less mature opinion back then was that he is clear but physically not extremely smooth. With the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Blomstedt’s conducting is a completely different story, although the style remains the same. The orchestra responded so well with all of his gestures especially in Bruckner Symphony No. 7.
The concert started out with another German composer, Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s “Concerto funebre“. Violin solo, Thomas Zehetmair is also a conductor. He has a good grasp of the piece, created a nice atmosphere and was not shy to play soft. However, as I was sitting right in front of him, his soft sustaining notes were not well-controlled. You could easily hear and see the bow was shaking towards the tip. It is hard to tell whether it was the nerves or he just simply need to practice slow bow strokes. He was able to play a solo piece written in 1939 from memory , which means he must have practiced adequately, so my guess is that he is more comfortable playing in his quartet group rather than solo with an orchestra.
Highlight of the night was definitely Blomstedt’s Bruckner 7. No doubt, from memory, Blomstedt shaped the whole symphony perfectly. There was not a single moment where one would feel bored and disconnected. You could feel the strong bond between the conductor and orchestra, which made the performance so enjoyable. However, the violins’ tremolo did raise my concern. Even as one of the top orchestras, the tremolo of the 1st violins are not consistent. Question to all conductors, would you like the tremolo to be more consistent over random? Well, I am not talking about misurato, but to my taste, different tremolos have different tension, and the strings should be more cautious with their strokes rather than just play it fast. Throughout the whole symphony, I only saw one violinist (out of 14 within my sight) used different amount of bow and tension to play the tremolo. Others were playing the tremolo in the same way no matter it is loud or soft.
In reality, it might not make too much of a difference to the sound (maybe yes?) but visually it does make the audience feel how the atmosphere is being created, and to me, this is the reason I prefer the real orchestra to organ. You can control the volume of the organ, but there is no way you could tune the tension of the sound from an organ.
By all means, if you have a chance to see Blomstedt’s Bruckner, please do not miss it. Over the 7 performances of BR Orchester, this was the only performance where the orchestra paid tribute to the conductor, just saying.
Concert on December 9, 2011