So, I listened to the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie ‘live’ on my Smart TV and the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. Britain’s Stefan Asbury Conducted. It was 3:00 PM here in Toronto and 5 hours later in Berlin.
Junge Deutsche Philharmonie are students from Music Academies in Germany. They get together three times a year for intensive rehearsals and then give concerts. They have appeared a number of times in the Berlin Philharmonic hall.
The programme began with an overture to an opera in late Romantic style by Franz Schreker , Die Gezeichneten, then the Schuman Violin Concerto in D major. The soloist Renaud Capuçon was terrific, but now I understand why I’d never before heard the work. I couldn’t get with it. Maybe another time.
Following intermission they played the Symphony No.4 in C minor by Shostakovitch, also a work I’d not heard, unfortunately. Better late than never. This piece highlighted every section of the orchestra and every principal player. Nary a glitch.
A very long first movement with a vivace in the first violins and stretto like, carried on by all the string sections excepting the contra basses whose notes, though slightly reduced in number, were enough. The tempo was alarmingly fast, the music played accurately and with excitement. There were also those mysterious Shostakovitch passages with low bass rhythms underpinning an extremely high, slow moving violin or piccolo melody.
Also typical of Shostakovitch were long and lovely solos for bassoon, contra bassoon, clarinets – Bb and Eb, flute and piccolo. And then the terrifying horn solos, each note rising ever higher than the preceding one. Interlocking timpani parts for two players and another magical touch, a wood block, castagnette and snare drum solo ending the second movement, similar to the materials ending his 14th symphony, but with a tremolo string melody instead of celeste accompaniment. And of course, brilliant brass and snare drum parts and some very nice xylophone and glockenspiel licks during which the player stood militarily erect.
He was not the only player whose posture attracted my attention. The concerto soloist moved towards and away from the conductor and audience, never once lifting his heels or toes. Legs almost straight, he slid flat footed back and forth over the stage floor.
The 4th symphony provided the concert’s entire second half. The Cleveland Orchestra is the only orchestra near Toronto that could match this group of amateurs in music making.