Leonidas Kavakos / Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Mozart / Schoeck / Beethoven
Tonhalle Maag, Zurich, 2019-04-09
2019-04-13 — Original posting
Reichtum, Meisterschaft und Sorgfalt in Klang, Dynamik und Artikulierung — Zusammenfassung
Auf der ganzen Linie überzeugend: das Chamber Orchestra of Europe—durchweg charaktervolle Stimmen, ein reicher, oft kammermusikalischer Klang, der dem Namen des Ensembles alle Ehre macht. Sorgfältige Dynamik, vom feinsten Pianissimo bis zum kräftigen Forte, welches die Akustik der Tonhalle Maag nie überforderte. Leonidas Kavakos bot eine lebendige, im letzten Satz etwas zu gemäßigte Interpretation des G-dur Konzerts von Mozart, und ein faszinierendes kleines Akrobatenstück als Zugabe. Schoeck’s Sommernacht vermag als Komposition vielleicht nicht jeden zu überzeugen—es erfuhr aber in der Aufführung die selbe Sorgfalt in Aufbau und Dynamik wie die anderen Werke. Hier und in Beethovens abschließender “Eroica” war Kavakos als Dirigent zu erleben. Zusammen mit dem COE machte er auch die Sinfonie zum Erlebnis, speziell in den ersten drei Sätzen. Dem Finale schien etwas die Überzeugungskraft, die Kohärenz zu fehlen—der kurze Presto-Schluss war dennoch hinreißend.
- Concert & Review
- Mozart: Violin Concerto No.3 in G major, K.216, “Strassburg”
- Encore — Tárrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories from the Alhambra)
- Schoeck: “Sommernacht” for String Orchestra, op.58
- Beethoven: Symphony No.3 in E♭ major, op.55, “Eroica”
- The Artists
- Setting, etc.
- R. Strauss: Sonata for Cello and Piano in F major, op.6, TrV 115 (1883)
- Encore — R. Strauss: No.4, Morgen! (Tomorrow!), from 4 Lieder, op.27, TrV 170 (1894)
Back to the concerts of the Foundation “Migros Kulturprozent Classics”, this time again in the Tonhalle Maag. The combination of a prominent violinist (and now also conductor) and a world-class orchestra that is not new to Zurich, plus popular cornerstones of the symphonic concert repertoire (Mozart, Beethoven) made up for an attractive Tuesday evening event!
With the Greek violinist and conductor Leonidas Kavakos (*1967), the program featured a well-known name among the European violinists, and an artist who has performed in Zurich in the past. For me, this was the second live encounter with the artist. A little over a year ago, I have heard him as violinist in a duo recital, see my report from the concert at Tonhalle Zurich on 2017-12-12. Conducting is a recent expansion to his activities—I have not witnessed him in this function before. In this season, he is touring in a series of concerts, in the combined role of soloist and conductor. In the concerto, Leonidas Kavakos performed on his own 1734 “Willemotte” violin by Antonius Stradivarius (1644 – 1737).
Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE)
Also the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE, see also Wikipedia for information) does not require an introduction. It is one of the foremost European orchestras, and it has frequently performed in Switzerland. For me, this was the fifth live encounter, see my reports from the concerts in Zurich and Lucerne. In 1981, members of the European Union Youth Orchestra decided to form a new ensemble, the COE, with the help and support by two prominent conductors, Claudio Abbado (1933 – 2014) and Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929 – 2016). It has since performed all over the world, with top soloists and conductors. Currently, the closest association is with the conductors Bernard Haitink (*1929), Yannick Nézet-Séguin (*1975) and Sir András Schiff (*1953).
Why “Chamber Orchestra”?
As the space in the lounge at Tonhalle Maag is limited, the artistic director of the foundation “Migros Kulturprozent Classics”, Misha Damev, entertained those audience members who decided to stay in the hall, by conducting an interview with the orchestra’s principal double bass player, Enno Senft, actually one of the founding members of the COE. That interview turned out to be both very interesting and informative. For one, we learned about the orchestra’s internal organization, its history, and how it works, for rehearsals, as well as for concerts / tours.
Enno Senft also explained the size of the orchestra: the COE seems “bigger than a typical chamber orchestra, but still is distinctly smaller than a regular symphony orchestra”. According to Enno Senft, the key about the COE is not its size, but how the members of the ensemble play together, namely like in a chamber music formation, where every musician shares responsibility and initiative, and they all form a big family. And this clearly finds its way into the sound, the interpretation / performance, the expression, etc.
Most of the concerts organized by the Foundation “Migros Kulturprozent Classics” in Zurich and Lucerne feature a half-hour “pre-concert”, for emerging artists who receive(d) support by the Foundation. The pre-concerts are scheduled one hour before the start of the main concert event. In Zurich, the pre-concerts are in a small hall, the “Klangraum” in the first floor, holding 110 seats. The program for the two linked events is as follows (in my report, I discuss the pre-concert at the bottom of the post):
- Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949): Sonata for Cello and Piano in F major, op.6, TrV 115 (1883)
Main Program (19:30): Leonidas Kavakos / Chamber Orchestra of Europe
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791): Violin Concerto No.3 in G major, K.216
- Othmar Schoeck (1886 – 1957): Summernight for String Orchestra, op.58
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827): Symphony No.3 in E♭ major, op.55, “Eroica“
The (main) concert was nearly sold out—a full success! My wife and I had parquet seats in the best category, in row 14 (#31 & #32). Photos are by the author (© Rolf Kyburz, all rights reserved), unless noted otherwise in the caption or in the associated text.
Concert & Review
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) wrote this third violin concerto 1775, when he was just 19 (and an excellent violin player!). The surname “Strassburg” refers to a remark in which Mozart told his father that he had played a concerto in G “from Strassburg” (where he just had been). It is not entirely clear, though, whether he was really talking about the composition that we now know as K.216. This has three movements:
- Allegro (4/4)
- Adagio (4/4)
- Rondeau: Allegro (3/8) — Andante (2/2) — Allegretto — Allegro (3/8)
I have written about an earlier concert featuring this composition, 2017-07-05 in Zurich.
The COE used an “antiphonal” setup with some 10 + 10 violins on either side of the podium, the violas on the rear right, cellos on the rear left, and three double basses on the far left. When Leonidas Kavakos was conducting between solos, he held the bow with the fingers of his left hand, led the orchestra with movements of his right hand only. Clearly, conducting is not his “first profession”, so his movement were not follow a rigid, metric scheme, but merely formed melodies, vaguely gave the beat. For this ensemble, however, this is more than enough!
My notes about the first movement begin stating that despite the mid-size orchestra, the concerto often felt like chamber music. This sure was prior to the intermission interview that I refer to above! While not strictly “historically informed” (instruments, bows, and strings were modern), the performance left very little to wish for, even for HIP fanatics. The articulation was light, the accents fresh, the tempo very natural, the sound transparent, and the movement never lost its momentum.
Clearly, Kavakos did not just let the orchestra do its job: as soon as he entered the first solo, he switched to a slightly faster pace, and throughout the movement, he never left the music drag, rather played “at the rhythmic front edge”. These nuances were recognizable, but never felt excessive. Rather: they maintained the lively atmosphere, made the listener pay attention!
Kavakos’ vibrato was inconspicuous, selective, his tone and attitude unpretentious, never dominating, never trying to trump up with a big tone. In line with this: his cadenzas fitted, suited the music extremely well. The short one at bar 151, as well as the big one at bar 216, close to the end, were very nice, felt natural, again unpretentious, playful (artful, but no virtuosic show!). I liked the bird song imitation at the end of the big cadenza! — ★★★★
A serene movement with lively agogics. Here, Kavakos’ vibrato was more prominent, occasionally (for my taste) on the strong side. I enjoyed how the wind instruments (horns, flutes, oboes in the fast movement) were seamlessly integrating into the sound of the ensemble, merely adding color and reinforcement—except for the solo parts, of course. There, the wind soloists left no doubt about their top-level quality.
Throughout the movement, Kavakos maintained the calm flow, never turning impatient even momentarily, rather enriching his part with occasional extra, inconspicuous ornaments. And the cadenza was all subtle, intimate, soft and dreamy. The movement ended by retracting into the finest, serene and enchanting pianissimo. — ★★★★
III. Rondeau: Allegro — Andante — Allegretto — Allegro
The Rondeau returned to the refreshing atmosphere of the first movement, and also here, the soloist remained unpretentious in the articulation (very far from the big, voluptuous tone of the big virtuosos of the last century!). That said: the instrument projected very well, and (also thanks to the diligent dynamics control in the orchestra) its sound was never in danger of drowning in the accompaniment. Kavakos was infallible in the intonation, and again, the occasional extra ornaments were hardly noticeable as such. A short, but lovely cadenza at the fermata in bar 217!
The Andante insert (just 13 bars!) may have been a bit on the slow side for alla breve notation, rather (too?) comfortable. Also the Allegretto segment felt like a somewhat heavy musette. The clumsiness was sure intended by the composer. However, I felt that overall, the musicians could have much more pointed out the mocking, the humorous, funny, and sometimes moody side. The sudden changes in atmosphere in this movement are more than merely playful, I think. — ★★★½
Overall Rating: ★★★★
Encore — Tárrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories from the Alhambra)
Francisco Tárrega (1852 – 1909) was one of the most prominent Spanish, romantic guitar virtuosos and composers. One of his most famous compositions is Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories from the Alhambra) for solo guitar, from 1896. This is a challenging piece requiring constant three-finger tremolo for the melody, while the thumb forms an arpeggiando (broken chord) accompaniment on the lower strings. The piece as such is somewhat of an ear-worm and has been reproduced in countless arrangements.
One of these arrangements is for the violin, by the famous Italian violinist Ruggiero Ricci (1918 – 2012). The arrangement is equally virtuosic for the violinist. In lieu of the guitar tremolo, Ricci used a combination of bariolage and ricochet techniques, with intermittent, bowed notes on the other (non-tremolo) strings for the accompaniment.
By the very nature of this little acrobatic piece, there is no big tone (and sure no legato). Nevertheless, Kavakos’ articulation was clear, despite the rapid richochet movement, the fast tempo, which turned this into a stunning, little artistic gem, in which the “in-between” melody line remained clear and clean at all times. In the original (for the guitar), this is a prime example for an ear worm—hear it once and it will follow you forever. Here, however, Leonidas Kavakos did not do the repeats, and his masterful playing was pure joy and pleasure to watch and hear! — ★★★★
The Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck (1886 – 1957) originally (1945) wrote his “Sommernacht” (Summernight) as “pastoral intermezzo, op.58” for piano, four hands. He also created an orchestral version “Sommernacht” for String Orchestra, op.58. The work is in a single movement, with the annotation Ruhige Viertel (calm crotchets). It lasts around 15 minutes.
In the first half of the 20th century, Othmar Schoeck was a well-known figure among the European composers. In his career, he worked / associated with composers such as Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924) and later Arthur Honegger (1892 – 1955). His oeuvre includes a vast number of Lieder, but also chamber music, choral and orchestral works, and several operas, among them his signature work, Penthesilea, op.39, from 1927. Up to WWII, Schoeck’s music was late-romantic in style, and very expressive. His works were increasingly popular in pre-WWII Nazi Germany. The composer cooperated with major opera houses, e.g., in Berlin and Dresden. He also received (and accepted) an award, which caused people (especially in his home country) to associate him with Nazi Germany. This ultimately had a severe impact on his career.
Schoeck suffered a heart attack in 1943. This forced him to give up his careers as conductor, and as pianist (Lied accompanist). He continued to compose. However, his style gradually turned more retrospective. He never quite recovered from the damage to his reputation, though.
Some of Schoeck’s opera “Penthesilea” was described as having similarities to the opera “Elektra” , op.58 by Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949). So, it may not be surprising that in this concert, to me, “Sommernacht” spontaneously evoked associations with Strauss’ “Metamorphosen” (1945), but also “Verklärte Nacht” (Transfigured Night), op.4, an early work from 1899 by Arnold Schönberg (1874 – 1951), but also (even!) the “Siegfried-Idyll”, WWV 103, from 1869, by Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883).
The concert booklet mentions Schoeck’s own “libretto” for Sommernacht.:
“In a clear, starry summer night, young countrymen, moved by grateful feelings, are harvesting the mature corn for a widow or an orphan who otherwise has no help for these tasks”
Based on this, the text then derives that the music describes “unity with nature, peace, nostalgia, solidarity”, as “counterpoint to the global catastrophy that just ended”. The booklet states that Schoeck was describing a past epoch of which he knew: it was gone for good. The text gives further, more concrete descriptive associations. However I personally think that the above program is already more than enough to enjoy the music.
For this (pure string) piece, the three double basses moved to the center at the rear end of the stage. Leonidas Kavakos conducted without baton. He was again shaping, “painting” the soundscape, rather than coordinating the orchestra or structuring the measures with precise beats. For this music in particular, the shaping of dynamics and sound is key, coordination is not an issue.
How does it sound?
I have described my spontaneous associations above—to me, this is the most accurate description that I can give: broad dynamic arches, nice, often even beautiful cantilenas. The music is entirely tonal, but melodically and harmonically somewhat aimless, “in the air”. The melodies are not meant to “stick”, the music merely describes emotions, sceneries in nature, such as bird songs. Occasionally, the piece turns from contemplative to dancing, moderately joyful (never boisterous, though), serene, expressive, slightly melancholic, then again intensely singing. It’s definitely not music to “understand & analyze”: rather, a piece to “watch and enjoy”, to let associations and thoughts wander along.
Leonidas Kavakos and the COE did not try elevating this music to more than it wants to be. I’m not here to judge the music—I liked it for what it represented to me: an idyllic painting, contemplation, nature scenery, peace, beauty. And the artists gave more than just an adequate rendition of this composition: a well-balanced, calm performance, expressive, but never exaggerating, nor trying to make this “big”.
Beethoven: Symphony No.3 in E♭ major, op.55, “Eroica”
The final part of the concert was devoted to the Symphony No.3 in E♭ major, op.55, “Eroica” by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827). I don’t need to use space to describe the composition here. For details see my earlier post with a comparison of various CD recordings. Let me just list the movements here:
- Allegro con brio, 3/4 (3/4=60)
- Marcia funebre. Adagio assai, 2/4 (1/8=80)
- Scherzo: Allegro vivace — Trio, 3/4 (3/4=116)
- Finale; Allegro molto, 2/4 (1/2=76) — Poco Andante (1/8=108) — Presto (1/4=116)
This is one of Beethoven’s most popular symphonies—a pièce de résistance in today’s concert repertoire. Not surprisingly, I have attended and written about several concerts featuring this composition.
Schoeck’s music wasn’t exactly an orchestral showpiece—but here now, the qualities of the ensemble came to full bearing! The 3 double basses were back to the rear-left corner, the rear row of the podium now holding the horns, the woodwinds, the natural trumpets, and the timpani. The horns were valve instruments, though presumably narrow-bore, with a bright sound. Purists may claim that natural horns would have been more appropriate. However, top-quality natural horn players are rare—and valve instruments offer a more even sound quality, as they can be played with open bell almost throughout.
Here, Leonidas Kavakos was conducting with baton, which makes it easier to reach a slightly bigger orchestra. Still, however, he was not using academic beating technique: his left hand seemed more important than the hand with the baton, in that it kept shaping phrases, dynamics. And Kavakos was conducting from memory, without a score.
Here it was again, this chamber music atmosphere. Not the smooth, seamless, polished sound of big symphony orchestras: rather, every string voice retained a distinct character, and despite the modern instruments, that sound remained full of character, occasionally slightly “grainy”, but never rough or coarse. The voices were all homogeneous, but full of “inner life”. The woodwinds were excellent throughout, as was the transparency of the ensemble. The latter was of course helped by the antiphonal setup. However, it was equally a consequence of everybody’s active, attentive participation, excellent, “natural” coordination (the concert master was leading and attentive, but didn’t need to play a major, active role), and careful dynamics control.
In my notes, I described this symphony as an example of the orchestra’s characteristic, distinctive, proprietary soundscape. Throughout the performance, the orchestra never “degraded” into the standardized sound of the big symphony orchestras—it kept its individuality. And the COE proved to have just the “right” size for this venue (which easily turns noisy with big orchestras). The analytic acoustics further helped the transparency of the ensemble, exposed the high quality, especially of the wind soloists.
I. Allegro con brio
The above describes my main impressions from the first movement: a “naturally historically informed” performance, without the rigidity or the provoking extremes of other approaches, but very much full of life. Every phrase had its “speaking” quality (Klangrede) through dynamics and vivid agogics. Accents stood out, but were never rude, consciously shaped. One little detail: in bar 147, just preceding the decrescendo at the end of the exposition (which Kavakos of course repeated), the three staccato crotchets were subtly stretched—not such that everybody would notice, just by the right amount. The same holds true for the equivalent staccato crotchets in the winds in bar 93.
Accents stood out, but weren’t too provocative, and Kavakos carefully followed Beethoven’s detailed dynamic annotations. In the development part, the fugato in bars 240ff took a slightly (but noticeably) faster pace. At the first climax, where the music builds up to very strong and dissonant chords (these must have been deafening to contemporary audiences!), the music was loud, poignant, but never noisy or overloading the acoustics. The subtlety of the ppp at the other end of the dynamic scale, as well as its width, was remarkable. I felt that the performance featured very well-proportioned dynamics, and despite the amount of detail, the conductor kept an eye on the big, overall structures, the dramaturgy of the movement. — ★★★★½
II. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
Yes, the tempo was distinctly below Beethoven’s annotation of ♪=80, which implies a certain unrest: the main thing was that the performance felt “right”, coherent, consistent—it never was “celebrated” in any way. Even in the initial sotto voce, I enjoyed the characteristic, slightly rough, “grainy” string sound, with very little vibrato . It was amazing how just three double basses could produce these menacing, rumbling sounds that mark the pace, and the subtlety of the timpanist further enhanced that experience. With that much excellence in details (dynamics, phrasing) I really didn’t mind the slow tempo.
The Maggiore part was equally well-proportioned, expressive, careful, never provocative—just heartfelt and impressive. With the return of the C minor part, I again noted how far this was from the pompous, overblown interpretations from 50, 70 years ago. So eloquent, so clear in the contours (those poignant clarinets at the climax!)—and again the remarkable precision and fine control in the timpani! Also this movement features a fugato segment, and also here, Kavakos switched to a subtly faster pace, keeping the listener “on edge”. And he was gradually approaching the pace that Beethoven specified.
With the expressivity, the poignant dissonances, the richness of the colors and dynamics, I soon forgot about the somewhat slow pace. The subtlety of the pp in oboes and clarinets was mind-boggling! — ★★★★★
III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace — Trio
This movement sometimes turns into an ultra-polished, virtuosic, orchestral showpiece. Here, precision and coordination were definitely excellent, but the performance remained natural, devoid of exaggerations. The syncopes were all clear and poignant enough: where they come in groups of three (bars 115ff, 123ff), Kavakos did not try extra highlighting by retaining the pace, rather keeping the momentum.
The Trio exposed the bright, brilliant sound of the 3 horns: remarkable! Needless to say: Kavakos observed all repeats. — ★★★★½
IV. Finale: Allegro molto — Poco Andante — Presto
Once more, the moderate size of the orchestra turned into a true advantage: despite the limitations in the acoustic capacity of the venue, the opening “splash” was never noisy, but retained “human dimensions”. The subsequent pizzicato was clear and precise, rather ppp than just p. Up to the first double bar (arco), Kavakos kept a retained pace. The introduction is followed by a short set of variations of increasing polyphonic complexits. Here, the tempo increased gradually, even more distinctly in the second variation. There, the concertmaster alone (then a solo quartet) performed the theme (p, dolce), which created a true “chamber music feeling”. With the return of the tutti (bar 78), the pace further increased, and even more so after the fermata in bar 105.
This is definitely a very challenging movement, both for the musicians, as well as for the audience. Did Kavakos accelerate in order to avoid losing the tension? The fast pace affected the quality of the performance: in the fugue, the coordination started to suffer, the semiquaver passage for the solo flute turned into a challenge. The performance—albeit still impressive—seemed to lack some coherence. It was definitely not as compelling, convincing as the previous movements. To some degree, it seemed to “fall apart”. Kavakos wasn’t able to maintain the “dramatic pull” throughout the movement, and I failed to see the logic behind some of the (small) tempo alterations.
On the bright side, despite the occasional tempo challenges, the movement turned into a feast for the wind soloists—primarily the horns, but also the trumpets and the woodwinds. And in the Presto coda, orchestra and conductor joined forces for short, but enthralling closure. — ★★★½
Overall Rating: ★★★★½
Paul Handschke, Cello
The pre-concert (see the introduction above) featured the German cellist Paul Handschke (*1993). The artist grew up in Munich and started playing the cello at age 5. He studied with notable cello pedagogues, attended master classes and finally won several prizes at competitions in Germany, both in the categories “cello solo”, but also as member of string quartet formations. Starting in 2016, he received support by the Foundation “Migros Kulturprozent Classics”. In the season 2014/2015, Handschke worked with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra), and in the following season he worked in the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich as trainee. At the same time, he is auxiliary member in other orchestras.
Between 2012 and 2018, Pauzl Handschke has studied with Thomas Grossenbacher at the ZHdK (Zurich University of the Arts), and in Marc h 2018, he became a permanent member of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich.
Mathias Clausen, Piano
Mathias Clausen grew up in the Valais, in the South-West of Switzerland. He did his studies (piano, organ, music teaching at schools) in Lausanne and in Zurich, soon focusing on the piano. Besides giving concerts, he is now teaching at the ZHdK (Zurich University of the Arts), as well as at the Allgemeine Musikschule Oberwallis (General Music School Upper Valais) in Visp.
The Klangraum with its 110 seats was packed with people (there were even people standing in the back). My wife and I took seats in the center of the last row (such as to be less disruptive when taking photos). The piano was a mid-size Steinway grand, model B-211, with the lid fully open.
R. Strauss: Sonata for Cello and Piano in F major, op.6, TrV 115 (1883)
Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949) composed his Sonata for Cello and Piano in F major, op.6, TrV 115 in 1883 at the age of 19. The sonata features three movements:
- Allegro con brio
- Andante ma non troppo
- Finale – Allegro vivo
I. Allegro con brio
The first movement opens with big, grandiose gestures, already so typical and personal for Richard Strauss. Indeed, it has similarities to his later masterpiece, the Sonata for violin and piano in E♭ major, op.18, TrV 151. As the latter, it also features Strauss’ demanding, full-fingered piano part, and the strong, intense singing in both instruments—though not quite as catchy as the composer’s later melodies. But clearly, at age 19, Strauss had already found his personal language.
From the first bars, Paul Handschke convinced with his tone—not huge in volume, but very even and well-balanced in volume and character, over the entire range. Also, the balance with the piano was excellent: Mathias Clausen proved an excellent accompanist, leaving the lead role to the cellist, never trying to dominate (even though the piano part must often be tempting to “show off”!). Soon after the initial fanfares, it became clear that the musicians emphasized the lyrical, playful aspects of the sonata. Both were careful in dynamics and articulation, never really pushing the “heroic” aspects. For the latter, I sometimes felt that maybe the piano was a little small (in volume, power) for this music, especially in the ff or fanfare-like passages? At the same time, in some lyrical passages, the cellist could have raised his volume a little more.
Beautiful music, for sure! In the development part, I felt a certain, temporary loss in tension. In parts, one may attribute this to weaknesses in the composition? However, that was only a short period, affecting lyrical segments. With the return of the initial fanfare theme, the musicians & the music kept a firm grip on the listener’s mind. — ★★★½
II. Andante ma non troppo
A mysterious, all-retained beginning, calm, soft singing on the cello, with a pleasant, naturally swaying vibrato. The artists consequently formed broad dynamic arches, up to intense climaxes, where the warm, singing sound of the cello was blooming up. They kept the tension throughout the movement, while maintaining the serene (often mysterious), calm atmosphere. In the end, the music retracts into silence. — ★★★★
III. Finale – Allegro vivo
The final movement turns out the burlesque character that we encounter in so many of Strauss’ later compositions. The music is light and playful in character, but virtuosic and demanding in the coordination, with its interplay, the tightly interwoven dialog between the two instruments. The acoustics in this small venue turned out challenging in this movement: in the burlesque, light parts, the piano could have shown more presence, while at the climax, the volume of the instrument was close to overloading the room, sounding rather loud.
The movement gave Paul Handschke a chance to show his passionate traits, and throughout, Mathias Clausen remained attentive, teaming up with the cellist, through all the rich agogics, the rubato. The cellist seemed to master his part effortlessly, with clean intonation, devoid of even the slightest insecurities. Thanks for this little known, but beautiful music! — ★★★½
Overall Rating: ★★★½
Encore — R. Strauss: No.4, Morgen! (Tomorrow!), from 4 Lieder, op.27, TrV 170 (1894)
Paul Handschke announced an encore (the announcement was hard to understand, but I read that he mentioned going from Richard Strauss’ early sonata to “Vier letzte Lieder” (Four Last Songs, TrV 196), which Strauss composed at the end of his life. What he actually performed was an arrangement of the Lied “Morgen!” (Tomorrow!), the No.4 from 4 Lieder, op.27, TrV 170. The underlying poem (with modifications by Richard Strauss) is by John Henry Mackay (1864 – 1933). Richard Strauss composed this in 1894, as a wedding present to his wife Pauline.
In line with the designated purpose of this Lied: serene, peaceful, calm, touching music, full of love, a ravishingly beautiful invention, maybe one of Strauss’ most beautiful ones? A lovely closure to the recital! — ★★★★½