CLASSICAL MUSIC: Schubert: Philharmonia / Dohnanyi; Gidon Kremer & friends RFH; Barbican

The Schubert bicentenary celebrations come with one built-in advantage: there's no shortage of material. The famous Deutsch catalogue lists nearly a thousands titles (with extensive song-cycles like Winterreise or Die schone Mullerin counting as just one work). And the proportion of that vast output that's actually worth hearing is astonishingly high - higher, dare one say, than is the case with Mozart.

Nor does there seem to be any shortage of composers willing to pay homage to Schubert. Last Wednesday's Philharmonia concert included Luciano Berio's Rendering, based on sketches for a symphony Schubert wrote in his last three weeks on this earth. Then on Friday, violinist Gidon Kremer and friends performed the first of series of Schubert tributes, by the American composer John Harbison: November 19, 1828, the date of Schubert's cruelly untimely death (he was only 31).

The idea behind Rendering is intriguing. It follows, says Berio, "the guidelines of the modern restoration of wall paintings, aiming at restoring the original brightness... without wishing to conceal the damage wrought by the centuries, so that the picture as a whole may retain some blank spaces (as for example in the case of Giotto in Assisi)". But the comparison is strained. In the Giotto, the remaining fragments retain their original proportional relationship to one another. In Rendering, Berio simply gives the surviving Schubert sketches with a filling of his own - there's no attempt to render the proportions of the projected symphony, just bits of Schubert patched with bits of Berio. Some of Berio's filling is rather beautiful in a strange, dreamlike way (with hints of Schubert floating in and out), but it certainly isn't "blank space". The effect is more like Giotto completed by Jackson Pollock.

Well, if it works, what's the problem? In this case, I don't think it does. The effect is schizoid. The two sound-worlds remain, in spirit, utterly distinct, throwing little, if any light on each other. It's a long way from the brilliant Mahler-palimpsest of Berio's Sinfonia, and, sadly, far less vital. It may be that the performance was partly to blame. The Philharmonia makes a wonderful sound for conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi, with beautiful internal balance (a Dohnanyi speciality), but energy levels were low almost throughout this concert. Easily the highlight was the singing of Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard (a late and very satisfactory substitute for Olaf Bar) in the seven orchestrated Schubert songs - a very different experience from a conventional voice / piano Lieder-recital, but one which Hagegard appeared to relish.

John Harbison is a much more conservative voice than Berio. Part of November 19, 1828 could have been written by a contemporary of Milhaud or Prokofiev. On paper, Harbison's programme ("Schubert crosses into the next world" etc) looked unpromising. But the third movement, in which a Schubert Rondo fragment is wittily developed and dislocated, and the finale - two contrasting fugues on a theme based on Schubert's name - held the attention strongly enough. Gidon Kremer, with violist Veronika Hagen and cellist Clemens Hagen, then gave an unusually powerful performance of Alfred Schnittke's typically histrionic String Trio (a tribute to Alban Berg rather than to Schubert). But the climax of the evening was a glorious performance of Schubert's own "Trout Quintet", with Oleg Maisenberg (piano) and Alois Posch (double bass); this was simply great chamber playing. The encore (Astor Piazzola?) was fun too - though it would have been nicer to go straight home with Schubert still ringing in the ears. Stephen Johnson

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine