Not(t) bad!

Rheingoldhalle Mainz
Thursday 16 May 2013
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden
-Baden and Freiburg, Jonathan Nott / Till Fellner (piano)
Radikal Klassisch
/ Radically Classical

(c) Marco Anelli

For those of you who are expecting the usual review about Beethoven being played nicely as always I’ll have to disappoint you. Yes, there was some Beethoven in the Mainzer Meisterkonzert at Rheingoldhalle yesterday (with his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C-minor op. 37 superbly played by Austrain pianist Till Fellner and his Fourth Symphony in B flat-major op. 60), but there was also some 20th cenutury art music going on! As I’ve never written about something like that before I ask you bear with my clumsy first steps in this field.

While I have learned quite a bit about ‘Neue Musik’ in several seminars and lectures, this kind of music somehow never really got to me. With classical music generally being described as ‘heavy’ and ‘exhausting’ to listen to, I find it funny that these people have probably never even heard of György Ligeti or Arnold Schoenberg, who are the real tough nuts in classical music. It’s not that I’m close-minded about New Music but I tend to enjoy a concert more when I don’t have endeavour to listen to the music. Also, how can you tell if someone hits a wrong note? Thus, how can you properly assess the performance of the orchestra?

Yesterday’s programme was a typical approach to get people to sit through a bit of Alban Berg and György Ligeti: people were basically forced to listen to them in order to be rewarded with some ‘classical’ Beethoven, as Berg was situated at the beginning of the first half and Ligeti opened the second half of the concert. Clever thought. It was very clear by the noncommittal applause that people appreciated the effort but weren’t really sure whether to like what they’ve just heard. To be honest, I wasn’t sure either at first, but then I noticed what Jonathan Nott, the famous British conductor, did. And what the orchestra did in return. They were absolutely brilliant.

Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite – Three pieces for String Orchestra (1925-26) was an interesting, 12-tone-based piece, starting off with soft, swaying motives which sounded quite ‘harmonic’ within themselves. There were so many new facettes of music in it, I was thoroughly surprised. Ligeti’s Melodies for Orchestra (1971) formed a sound carpet where the orchestra seemed to be constantly in motion. Nott was so enthusiastic and impulsive, it was extraordinarily to watch him really work the SWR Sinfonieorchester.

Even if I probably won’t load Ligeti’s complete works onto my music player now, this concert somehow took a certain ‘fear’ of New Music from me. As always, people tend to stay away from things that seem too heavy or too complex to understand. But it’s worth it, trust me.


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