June 23, 2013

All together now

The DSO and Tugan Sokhiev build a symbiosis at the last concert of the season


Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Ouvertüre ›Die Hebriden‹
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Violinkonzert D-Dur
Franz Schubert
Symphonie Nr. 8 ›Große C-Dur‹


Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Tugan Sokhiev - Conductor
Vadim Gluzman - Violin

Leserbrief/readers comment Druckversion/printversion pdf

All together now

The DSO and Tugan Sokhiev build a symbiosis at the last concert of the season

by Nancy Chapple / Photos: Patrice Nin (Sokiev), Urban Zintel (DSO)

Tugan Sokhiev
Photo: Patrice Nin

Attending two concerts by one and the same orchestra just three weeks apart, we were amazed at the transformation between how the DSO played with a guest conductor (Edward Gardner) and their principal conductor Tukan Soghiev: at their last concert of the 2012-13 season they had seemingly been transformed into a new entity. The playing was smooth and engaging right from the start. In Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, it was a delight to follow the lines' dynamic organic growth across long passages.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Violin Concerto starts in media res - no introduction. I imagined that we were deposited right in the middle of a sweeping love story: "And they loved each other intensely for a year and a day, each day learning to appreciate new facets of each other." When Korngold moved to Los Angeles in the late 1930's, he was more successful than many other European émigrés because he had mastered the art of composing for Hollywood films - or, as Habakuk Traber writes in the program notes: he helped create our expectations of what movie music should sound like, setting the standard. And what does movie music do? It pulls us along from one moment to the next with a feeling of inevitability. I was impressed by the exquisite intonation and phrasing of Ukrainian-Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman. Traber traces Korngold's re-use of his own film melodies in the different movements. The composer's style of modulations, of moving from one key to a related one comfortably and yet with strong forward momentum, was also reminiscent of movie music. My listening partner felt Guzman could have interacted more directly with the orchestra, held a true dialogue with them. But the orchestra musicians themselves seemed thoroughly convinced of the performance. The Bach movement Gluzman played as an encore felt less from within.

The second half of the concert was filled to bursting with Schubert's Great Symphony No. 8 in C major. From the start, Sokhiev set up interesting contrasts between the horn theme and the sweeping string themes. And that seemed to be his core idea of the work: a lively and highly present dialogue between different sections of the orchestra, sweeping movement, dynamic and timbre contrasts. He hardly needed to beat the tempo and pulse, it was so intuitively clear; this meant he could use his arms and whole body to evoke the larger arches he was looking to achieve.

An acquaintance pointed out how fun it is to watch principal cellist Mischa Meyer, who always seems to be giving his all like a rock musician would. And I started observing enthusiasm elsewhere: all around the orchestra I could see little smiles of joy at the vibrancy of Sokhiev's conducting style, and how fun it was to be along for the ride. From the audience perspective, it felt like there is a joyful, open relationship between the orchestra and their principal conductor, who joined them in this stead in the 2012-13 season.

The whole orchestra looked and felt so awake on stage. Klassik-in-Berlin has been observing the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester through Kent Nagano's era, the years with Ingo Metzmacher, and now with Tukan Soghiev. Some kind of symbiosis seems to be happening between orchestra and conductor. A conductor cannot simply "whip" an orchestra into shape - the willingness to create this kind of symbiosis must be coming from within the body of the orchestra.

At the end, Sokhiev intensely and repeatedly thanked the orchestra, as if to say: I'm nothing without you, thank you for working with me. And the audience thanked all of them with enthusiastic bravos.