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Links: NSO, Dresden Staatskapelle, Biss and St-Martin-in-the-Fields

By Anne Midgette

In Friday's Washington Post:

Xian Zhang leads lyrical Gil Shaham, thoughtful NSO program, by Anne Midgette.

Daniel Harding conducts gorgeous Dresden Staatskapelle with uneven hand but happy results, by Anne Midgette.
Edited to add: In a remarkable geographical sleight-of-hand, the copy editors of the Washington Post have relocated the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to the Deep South for the purposes of this review. Hope y'all liked it. (The mistake has been fixed in the on-line edition.)

Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields at Strathmore: Mozart on the fast track, by Charles T. Downey.

By Anne Midgette  | November 5, 2010; 8:21 AM ET
Categories:  Washington  
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Next: In performance: Alice Coote


I have attended the Staatskapelle Dresden concert (why was the attendance so low?) - and I thought it became better as it went on, with the best performance being reserved for the encore, the Freischutz Overture. I will be cynical and say that the reason is that the Staatskapelle is the pit orchestra of the Dresden Semperoper and that Dresden is the Weber-town par excellence. Thus,the orchestra simply didn't care about the gymnastics that the kid supposedly leading them performed.

The opening Manfred was disappointing. I was at one point wondering what in the world happened to the Staatskapelle woodwinds, only to realize in the Schumann piano concerto that they were alive and well (marvelous oboist; he should have played in Brahms as well) and that it was after all a matter of balance. Yes, I am aware that the orchestra performs in smaller halls "at home" (though the Frauenkirche, a regular performing venue of late is not exactly small), but they do tour with some regularity the USA and Japan and they are familiar with larger halls. Thus the "guilty" person is Harding.

But if only the balances were an issue in Manfred! It was such a lethargic performance and indeed, downright sloppy. Even with Fabio Luisi's cancellation, the orchestra should have gotten a better conductor for a tour - and why is Harding so hyped anyway? Ah, yes, the Brit publicity machine. This guy should spend these years apprenticing with a third rate orchestra, learn the craft, and then get the engagements that he's getting now - if he grows.

The Brahms was obviously better rehearsed, but yes, I would have preferred more "plumminess." And the orchestra is certainly able to do that without going into schmaltz, as it has demonstrated in countless occassions. As sorry as I was to see Thielemann leave Munich, his presence is certainly needed in Dresden.

The Schumann concerto was indeed a tale of two different minds. I wouldn't have minded Buchbinder's understated approach with a better partner.

I love the Staatskapelle Dresden, to the point of buying records made even under less than stellar conductors - Siegfried Kurz anyone? And this seems to be a problem with this orchestra: that it regularly plays under less than greats. The fact that it managed to keep its burnished sound in spite of that is for me nothing short of miraculous. But there is no doubt that to hear this marvelous ensemble at his best one needs to listen to the recordings made by the great conductors. Among others: Bohm, Kempe, Jochum, Sanderling, and yes, Karajan!

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | November 5, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

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