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
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
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.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence