Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble at Herodeion: A HAYDN CELEBRATION, WITH HITS AND MISSES

Loyal reader DerWanderer reports:

Marc Minkowski, and his multinational band (11 nationalities, according to the Maestro himself), one of the most versatile and distinctive period instrument ensembles in Europe were known in Athens: Those who have had the pleasure of attending last year’s concert (Les Nuits d’Ete with the sublime Anne-Sophie von Otter and the Arlesienne suites) were eagerly anticipating this year’s celebration of Haydn’s bicentenary. MM, after a pan-European tour and recording sessions of the full 12 London Symphonies was closing the cycle in Athens.

The Roman auditorium was more than 2/3 full (quite a feat, if you consider the program, the venue, the post electoral day-off that had sent packs of Athenians to the beaches and the fierce competition with the Festival’s “prime” proposition, Romeo Castellucci’s Purgatory -held simultaneously in the Alexandra Triandi Hall). It has been a hot and humid day, an almost lethal combination for period instrument sonority, especially in a sui-generis venue, as the Herodeion.

The concert started under the auspices of laughter, when the audience, mistaking the stage manager who came in, seconds after the instruments had finished tuning, just to drop two words in the ear of the 1st cellist, applauded him warmly. He took a bow and called in MM, who, in his familiar jovial and smiling way, took the podium as if he were dancing a saltarello.

The orchestra attacked the first course in the program, the “Roulement de Tambours” symphony, after a small introduction by MM, in his crunchy and humorous french accent. It was evident that the orchestra and the maestro were not yet “in”, and the coordination/concentration deficiencies were obvious. The interpretation was , IMO, a bit sketchy and lacking the melodic flow we associate with Haydn. The attacks were crisp, strident at times, and the solos, albeit clearly and stylishly underlined by the maestro, a bit untidy. I am almost certain that the heat had indeed affected the players. By the end of the opening movement, a big proportion of the (quite noisy, as usual) public applauded warmly. MM, mostly by elegance towards the “uncivilized” break, took some seconds to introduce the Menuetto, the second movement. Again, with a jovial, almost irresistible, touch of malice. This created a pattern, and MM went on taking advantage of the applause to introduce the rest of the monuments, or to add, just before the “hunting“ finale that Haydn must have written it having the naughty Herodeion ...pigeons in mind. All this was quite lethal to concentration, both for the orchestra and for the public. Overall, the interpretation of the 103 was uneven, with quite a number of “untidy” passages, with less “flowing” than the writer would have desired and some awkward rhythmic changes. On the other hand certain passages were really miraculously musical, youthful and playful and even virtuosic.

Although the public was obviously asking MM to go on with his spoken intros (the applause that was interrupting the movements), the 104, “London”/“Solomon” symphony performed after the intermission was something different altogether. There, MM and his band showed us their supreme musicianship. Gone was the untidiness , the uncertainty, the laughs and winks of the musicians. I dare to say that musically and stylistically this was one of the better played Haydn I have ever heard. MM and his solo winds, his concertmaster, his timpanist (a spitting image of Norway’s Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak) were magnificent. The Menuetto was pure magic. Unfortunately there was incident during the 3rd movement. The first clarinet -excellent, as a matter of fact- LOST THE CONE OF HIS INSTRUMENT DURING THE CLOSING BARS OF THE SECTION. With supreme professionalism, the orchestra rose to the occasion by going on without any-I repeat- any lack of concentration. The applause at the end, was even more enthusiastic and MM, who had NOT MADE ANY INTROS DURING THE SECOND SYMPHONY BREAKS, gave his musician the time to fix his instrument. He explained that the finale was in “Scottish” style and added that the “hydrometrics” (i.e. the concentrated humidity in the venue) of Herodeion problematic.

And there, during perhaps the only altogether justified break, rose a vulgar and conceited cry:

- Ca Suffit! (enough is enough!) La ferme! (shut up!) - Nous sommes ici pour la musique! (We are here for the music!)

MM, as most of the audience, heard only the first sentence, and as the French accent was quite good, took the protester for French. According to my VERY RELIABLE SOURCES, the “offender” was as French as a Gravara-born peasant...

MM said that he will go on “if he wishes”, and the booer was shut-up by other voices : “ This is not what the greek audience thinks!” “Thank you Marc!“ And the band went on and, as somehow galvanized by the incident, gave a tremendous finale to the symphony. A smiling MM, after presenting us all his musicians, gave us 3 encores: The Menuetto and the Finale of the “Surprise” Symphony (and, according to MM, the traditional scream of the musicians during the former were addressed to the “offender” ! )

As the applause at the end of the second encore was even fiercer, MM asked his band to play again the 104 Finale in an exemplary, magnificent, joyful and classy apotheosis of Haydn. A perfect close to a memorable concert that could have been sublime in another venue and with another public.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ap' oti fainete exasa kalo event...