Classical: A maestro wrestling with his wayward forces

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
YAKOV KREIZBERG relinquishes the positions of principal conductor and artistic advisor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra next summer. Yet he's conducting more concerts this season than he did last year when he was "on sabbatical".

A conductor certainly needs to have confidence in an orchestra to begin his opening concert of the season - as Kreizberg did on Thursday last week - with Wagner's Tristan Prelude. From the opening notes of the lustrous cello section to some powerfully emotional and expertly paced crescendos, the BSO responded with passionate and committed playing.

Alfred Brendel's account of Mozart's Piano Concerto in E flat, K482 (which he's currently taking round several British orchestras) showed how this eminent pianist's famed Mozart interpretations have become almost a caricature of their combination of old and new. While still offering an intermittent continuo accompaniment in orchestral tuttis, Brendel isn't afraid to indulge in a bit of old-fashioned rubato, or in the idiosyncrasies of a third- movement cadenza which strayed well out of the Mozartian idiom. The whole thing refused to add up to the sum of its sometimes beautiful parts. In the second half, the sometime slowish speeds and rubato in Dvorak's "New World" Symphony were always placed at the service of the musical flow, making such things as the lead-up to the first movement's coda very exciting.

On Wednesday this week, Kreizberg changed gear, driving Beethoven's Fidelio Overture with almost brutal vigour. In Schumann's Piano Concerto, Lars Vogt offered great variety of tone and nuance, but was too mannered and attention-seeking to give much consistency to the music's shape or to permit even Kreizberg, an expert accompanist, always to keep up with him.

Mahler's First Symphony, the main item on Wednesday, exposed problems of ensemble, intonation and the tendency to rush that was a feature of the entire evening. It's odd, too, how a string section so rich and secure in Wagner can suddenly turn so thin and timid. Yet again, though, there were marvellous moments: woodwind and horns in the first movement, a range of beautifully taken solos and, eventually, terrific bite from the violins at the start of the finale. But even Kreizberg's evident skills couldn't merge it all into a really satisfying whole.

Keith Potter