Hartmut Haenchen returns to the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra (of which he was music director in the period between 1986 and1999) with a concert thematically dedicated to Peace and War: the peace following the end of the Austrian Succession War in 1748, celebrated by Handel with the Music for the Royal Fireworks and the Second World War with the horror of the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 -1943, accounted by Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, composed in the summer of 1943.
Haenchen led the orchestra in a gloriously non-filological and breathtakingly non-historically informed performance of Handel’s music: a joy and a fest for the ears for those who would like to listen to baroque music outside the mainstream dictated by the ayatollah of the performance on period (but modern by any means...) instruments. Didn’t Handel write the Music for the Royal Fireworks for a hugeous band? Thus an orchestra of Brucknerian proportion (but faithful to Handel’s orchestration in contrast with Goossens’ reworking of the Messiah, recorded by Beecham, which would be interesting to bring back to the concert hall) to which the Maarschalkerweerd’s organ of the Concertgebouw hall added an extra symphonic dimension.
Difficult to imagine a bigger contrast between the radiant D major of Handel’s music and the sombre C minor of Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony. Haenchen rendering was perfectly carved, showing his kapellmeister craftsmanship, leading the orchestra and the public in a musical journey through man’s sufferance and despair in war and oppression time. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra played superbly: powerfully brassy in those moments where the orchestral sound become almost physically painful, lyrical yet refined in the playing of the string the most subtle pianissimo. The German director perfectly mastered, in my opinion, the ambivalent character of this music, which apparently flows from the desolated despair of the vast first movement to the apparently optimistic Finale, which in Haenchen’s view seemed an open question about the possibility of salvation and survival under oppressive conditions.
The public cherished the conductor and orchestra with a standing ovation and repeated calls.
PS: During the symphony the public could make use of the Wolfgang app, which enabled to read on smartphones some explanations and comments of the music synchronized with the undergoing the performance. Surely an intelligent application of mobile technology which could be expanded with other functionality and becoming a support for the concertgoers eager to be gain more insights on the music performed.
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Autorizzazione del tribunale di Milano n° 696 dell’8 ottobre 2004 - P. Iva: 04237170966