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Change of soloist, concerto and conductor, but the Philharmonia meets the problem with distinction – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Elgar, Wagner, Sibelius: Sol Gabetta (cello), Philharmonia Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä (conductor). Kultur- und Kongresszentrum (KKL) Luzern, Lucerne, 28.10.2022. (JR)

Sol Gabetta

Elgar – Cello Concerto Op.85

Wagner – Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde

Sibelius Symphony No.7, Op.105

I used to be trying ahead to listening to Truls Mørk in Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante for cello and orchestra (which might have been preceded by the ‘Classical’ Symphony), however the Norwegian cellist has a muscle damage and cancelled. In stepped Sol Gabetta, a Swiss resident, who modified the programme to the Elgar Cello Concerto, which I final heard her carry out some six years in the past.

I used to be additionally trying ahead to seeing and listening to younger Finnish conductor Tabitha Berglund of whom I had heard a lot, however she succumbed to the dreaded Covid, so on the final minute in stepped Osmo Vänskä, who was in any occasion scheduled to conduct the unique programme at London’s Royal Competition Corridor two days later (Jean-Guihen Queyras stepping in for Mørk).

While Gabetta’s tone is probably not as voluminous or mellow as different cellists, she definitely scores on ardour and depth. Intonation and method are flawless. Her fingers scampered up and down the fingerboard, harmonics at all times spot on. She introduced simply the correct quantity of wistful nostalgia to the work, written instantly after the ravages of WWI, the Adagio was suitably reflective and world-weary. Sadly, now that Covid is abating and masks have nearly disappeared, the uncovered coughers are again with a vengeance. However they might not spoil a really positive efficiency. Vänskä and the orchestra added little, however he could be excused within the circumstances: all eyes and ears have been in any occasion on the soloist.

Gabetta then handled us to an uncommon and pleasant encore: the Dolcissimo motion from Pēteris Vasks’s work The Ebook: full with fluttering harmonics and the cellist’s singing accompaniments. Gabetta has a particularly shut relationship with Vasks’s works and the piece could be discovered on one in every of her recordings.

The chunk of Wagner, after the interval, was performed with nice the Aristocracy and passion, Vänskä whipping up fairly a frenzy on the acceptable second. The work was written in Lucerne, with shut reference to Wagner’s love for – and affair with – Mathilde von Wesendonck simply up the street in Zurich. The Liebestod welled up in waves of sound, the Philharmonia displaying us that they’ve at all times been, and nonetheless are actually a world-class orchestra. They’ve even discovered a younger timpanist to comply with within the footsteps of the nice Andy ‘Thumper’ Smith.

Hugh Canning (Sunday Occasions music critic) has described Osmo Vänskä because the world’s biggest residing Sibelian – and on the energy of his interpretation of Sibelius’s final symphony (a masterpiece in ten mini-movements lasting simply over twenty minutes) I can not disagree. It was merely breath-taking. By the way, earlier than Mahler grew to become so well-liked within the Seventies, each aspiring conductor needed to grasp all of the Sibelius symphonies). Vänska wrenched the sound of darkish granite out of the orchestra and principal trombonist Byron Fulcher stood out particularly, as did Chief Benjamin Marquise Gilmore and principal cello Karen Stephenson.

And the encore: Valse Triste, what else?

John Rhodes

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