Rheingau Music Festival 2022
Visited the concert on July 7, 2022, Wiesbaden
Jean Sibelius Symphonic poem “Finlandia” op.26
Robert Schumann Violin Concerto in D minor WoO 1
Edward Elgar Variations of Enigma Op. 36
Julia Fischer violin
Bamber Symphony Orchestra
John Storgards Management
The Bamberg Guest Symphony Orchestra presented a diverse program in Wiesbaden. At the beginning, we heard the most successful composition by Jean Sibelius, Finlandia. The composition, which premiered in 1900, is still regarded by the Finns as “the secret national anthem”. The great seriousness in the opening brass chorale rarely fails. And in the first few bars of the Bamberg Symphony it showed excellent sound quality. The brass group sounded perfect in terms of play and intonation. John Storgards, knows the music of his compatriot very well. The proof of his impressive competence is the complete recording of all of Sibelius’ symphonies, which is worth listening to. In his conductor, John Storgårds emphasized a large, vocal line in the phrasing, especially in the quiet middle section. The corner fragments of the popular sound poem turned out to be bright and thrilling. Pulsating strings, combined with the hearty timbres of woodwinds, complemented by appropriately rumbling cymbal hits resulted in a spectacular start that couldn’t have been more successful. With great verve, Storgårds made an unforgettable start with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, giving it their all!
In 1853, Robert Schumann’s last orchestral work was composed, his Violin Concerto in D minor. A child of pain, the premiere of which was not to be released until 84 years (!) Later. To this day, many prejudices are associated with this concert. It was said that Schumann was too stripped of his mental faculties here and everything else that wasn’t spread as nonsense! Composer Paul Hindemith modified the music to be “more playable”. This version fell into oblivion again. Schumann’s Violin Concerto is seen more as music for the soul than as a setting for solo virtuosity.
The first movement gives the soloist and orchestra a lot of space for musical expression. The dominant central theme characterizes this movement. The orchestra begins nervously and restlessly, then the theme is taken over by the solo violin. The violin has many baroque ornaments. Yet the questioner and the seeker define this opening sentence. In the second movement, the violin introduces a lyrical and singing solo theme. The orchestra and the solo violin then exchange the melodic lead and accompaniment several times. This is followed by the transition to the dance part of the third. The third movement features elements of a rondo as well as echoes of a polonaise. Here, too, Schumann resigned from his solo term.
Already at the beginning of the first movement, the tonal homogeneity of the Bamberg Symphony embraces and gives the lower register of the solo violin a lot of creative freedom. The soloist Julia Fischer seeks common ground in playing and constantly connects with the wonderful sound of the orchestra’s tutti. In the second set, Fischer offered a wide range of graceful emotions. Wonderfully perceptible, it gave the opening cantilena a lot of space, supported by the orchestra’s nobly primed cello group. Contemplation that was unfortunately short-lived. Sometimes very withdrawn, played inside, then again catchy in the game. It resulted in a completely natural transition to self-confidence and a lively joy in life in the final part. Julia Fischer was completely in tune with her wonderful instrument and gifted the audience with her devoted playing.
John Storgårds conducted with clear rhythmic impulses that were perfectly implemented by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. A profound knowledge of the Schumann Violin Concerto in Storgårds could be experienced at any time. The conductor and violinist have played and conducted this piece several times.
Great, justified and long-lasting enthusiasm in the audience. And Julia Fischer thanked her for her virtuoso performance of Niccolo Paganini’s Caprica.
In 1898, the English composer Edward Elgar wrote one of his most famous orchestral compositions, “Enigma Variations”. It is a deeply biographical work as in these 14 variations Elgar portrayed the most important people and animals in his living environment.
In the first variation, the listener gets to know Elgar’s wife Alice. The ninth variation of “Nimrod” is particularly touching and known. It is dedicated to Elgar’s close friend August Jaeger, who brought Elgar out of a deep creative crisis. As a comparison, Jaeger used Ludwig van Beethoven, who had a similar experience, so Jaeger sang Elgar’s themes to Beethoven. This led to Elgar’s melodic inspiration for “Nimrod”. And let’s not forget Dan in the eleventh variant! Who was Dan? Elgar described his accident, falling into a stream, from which he could then break free by dripping with water. Dan the English Bulldog! Finally, in the last variation, Elgar introduced himself with all orchestral splendor!
A great opportunity for the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra to present to the delighted audience its outstanding sound culture and virtuoso joy of playing. That evening, the Bamberg Symphony showed a quality that puts it among the best orchestras in Germany. John Storgårds gave the orchestra every opportunity to use its artistic potential to characterize Elgar’s friends. The dynamic range has been developed with the utmost refinement so that all orchestral splendor is available for the grand finale. Storgårds had cantabile strings played and also gave the compact brass plenty of room for tonal effects. Particularly impressive was Storgård’s ability to breathe music naturally. Time and time again he established convincing resting points to evoke new moments of tension from them. Woodwinds used these moments for special patches of color and intense phrase lines.
Sibelius again for an encore. This excitingly beautiful concert evening ended with an extremely enigmatic musical “Valse triste”.
Dirk Schauss, July 8, 2022