A Musical Experiment

Staatstheater Mainz
Friday 29 June 2012
Anna Vinnitskaya (Piano)
Nielsen, Beethoven, Sibelius

(c) Esther Haase

Being finally able to go to a concert without taking notes (we had a course in university on how to  properly criticise concerts, opera etc. – I went two nights in a row and had a deadline the next day) I went to the 9th Sinfoniekonzert of the Mainz Philharmonic Orchestra under Hermann Bäumer. And then I thought I might just listen to the concert for once, not reading any programmes and not preparing for what I was about to hear in advance. Just letting myself feel the music, without any prejudice. Here’s what I thought:

First we heard Carl Nielsen’s Helius overture: the horns introduced the piece with quite shaky intonation, then the orchestra joined, unfolding a sound carpet which doesn’t really convince me though. It’s not the orchestra – it’s the piece itself which is kind of… unspectacular and a bit dull. This first impression does change with the second work of the evening: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, beautifully interpreted by Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya, whose fingers moved with such speed and elegance that you were flabbergasted. She makes the piano sound like a harp at times, blissfully adapting to each mood the different movements offer.  Her encore is a very expressive rendition of a piece by Debussy.

The big surprise for me was Jean Sibelius’ 5th Symphony. I love the Finlandia and the 2nd one isn’t bad either, but this utterly beautiful work of art just blew me away. Though the horns were still a bit flat sometimes, the orchestra seemed much more coherent on the whole with Bäumer’s conducting being subtle yet quite distinct. Ethnic melodies mixed with slightly dissonant chords, leaving the listener imagining a nordic landscape. Sometimes reminding me of Studio Ghibli’s film music, the symphony really touched me and was a treat to listen to!

I do think I might have written about this concert a bit differently if I had read several anecdotes and information on the pieces, but I’m quite glad it turned out like this now.

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