April 04, 2006

A World in a Symphony

Janine Jansen and Andrey Boreyko with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie


Sergei Prokofiev
Violin Concerto No. 2 g-minor op. 63
Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony No. 7 c-major op. 60 »Leningrad«


Junge Deutsche Philharmonie
Andrey Boreyko - Conductor
Janine Jansen - Violine

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A World in a Symphony

Janine Jansen and Andrey Boreyko with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie

by Nancy Chapple

Janine Jansen

Let us start with a confession: Klassik-in Berlin is already a huge fan of Janine Jansen's violin playing. She's a natural musician, a chamber musician who leads any ensemble in which we've heard her with bursting-at-the-seams energy and élan. She brought the same qualities to her concerto playing, seemingly taking on the role of leading the orchestra with eye contact and verve, though in fact enabled in her musical aims by conductor Andrey Boreyko.

In the first movement of Prokofiev's 2nd Violin Concerto, Jansen's sound was sometimes scratchy, as if she had to strain to be heard above the large orchestra. But by the Andante assai, she was creating long phrases of spun gold, deploying a rich vibrato which never felt out of place. As we've heard on other occasions, the listener can always sense where she is because the phrases build on each other. At times the orchestra did not quite match her lustre, lacking the balanced musical sound within individual instrumental sections of the best professional orchestras.

But any doubts about the orchestra's polish were banished with their interpretation of Shostakovitch's 7th Symphony. Perhaps Boreyko felt less confined than when supporting the charismatic soloist Jansen. At any rate, the orchestral sounds melded more convincingly. In the spare middle section of the initial Allegretto, we were led into a breathtaking melody played by the wooden flute, then a snare drum together with pianissimo pizzicato in the violins - a magical soft sound. And we admired the brilliant composing: canonical writing that constantly arrives at square cadences with a regular phrase structure, yet deploys a surprising combination of instruments and unusual intervals in the melodic lines.

Andrey Boreyko

A question arose about whether it is necessary to know a specific composition's historical context to appreciate it. We can read that Shostakovitch's "Leningrad" Symphony was quickly sketched out after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941, that he poured his energy into finishing it in the months thereafter, writing "With pain and pride I look upon my beloved city and she is blackened by fires, hardened in battles ... My weapon is music". Though this knowledge may add depth to one's listening, it seems just one possible angle to approach the work. At any rate, the work describes a whole world in colors, tempi, and alternation between diatonic and dissonant harmonies.

There were many impressive passages for the solo winds. The bass clarinet stood out in the second movement, mesmerizing in its low timbre. The two halves of a phrase often moved seamlessly from one section, which uttered the first half, to the other, symmetrically finishing the thought. Adagio - Largo, the third movement, deploys clean open fifths at the beginning, creating a Bachian intensity with simple intervals and a long build-up. The fourth movement has hugely long melodies and a plethora of themes, but in Boreyko's interpretation there was never any sense that the whole thing could spin out of control. Boreyko drew vibrato and intensity from the basses and celli, and that often colored the sound.

It was a deeply satisfying musical evening.