The third installment of the Carnegie Hall Bruckner Symphony Cycle with Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin.
The first half consisted of Mozart’s C-minor Piano Concerto K491. Its richness in character was not lost on the orchestra and its director. The opening bars, sounding a dark unison melody that covers all twelve tones of the chromatic scale slithered with incredible focus and care, as befitted the first movement as a whole. The woodwind flourishes in the second movement were executed flawlessly, as well-rehearsed as can be imagined, all the while seeming improvisatory. The sometimes stark and vulnerable moments with piano alone were greeted with calm and artistry by the master sitting at the keyboard. In the Finale, an effort was made to explore and emphasize the sometimes-startling chromaticism. This was a (necessarily) romantic interpretation of the Concerto.
Bruckner’s Third Symphony was originally dedicated to Wagner, and the first version incorporated quotations. Wagner asked they be removed, the 1878 score does so, while making the piece more continuous.
The logic behind pairing Mozart with Bruckner became clear. As Barenboim brought romanticism to Mozart, he brought clarity and transparency to Bruckner. The result was entirely captivating from beginning to end. With playing of the highest degree, themes so clear and connected, one could not help but follow the narrative. In the slow movement Barenboim took great care not to take too much time over it, allowing the music to speak for itself; the orchestra responded profoundly to Barenboim’s minimal gestures. The Scherzo and Trio were a fantastic juxtaposition of bombast and dance, and Barenboim controlled the Finale so well to blend drama and absolutism with amazing ease.