A perfect match
Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern
Richard Wagner: Rienzi: Overture
Richard Strauss: Salome op. 54: Dance of the Seven Veils
Dimitri Shostakovich Symphony No. 8 op. 65
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Andris Nelsons (conductor)
A. Nelsons (© Marco Borggreve)
How unusual (nowadays) and therefore utterly welcome to start a concert with a traditional overture. Although Rienzi itself is rarely performed today and regularly regarded with some scorn, one forgets that it was a success of Wagner’s career, and the work that made him famous almost literally overnight. The overture remains a favourite with orchestras with its showy orchestral brilliance and melodic splendour and Nelsons played it for all it is worth, relishing its muscularity and passion. Nelsons’ boyish excitement with his leaps in the air and his broad sweeping gestures (much as Jansons in his younger days) infected both orchestra and audience alike.
We then heard Strauss’ Dance of the Seven Veils which allowed the Concertgebouw to show off its abilities and the work’s shimmering and oriental orchestral colours to the full. From the swooning oboe to the seductive flute and the silken strings, we marvelled at the warmth of sound this glorious orchestra can produce.
Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony certainly has its longueurs, particular in the long opening movement, which Nelsons tried hard to dispel. He succeeded in the main. The opening was mysterious and brooding and when the deafening apocalyptic climax came, we were bowled over. The repose of the final pages had the audience spellbound.
Nelsons enjoyed the fun of the Allegretto coaxing some wonderful playing from piccolo, bassoon and tuba. Once again Nelsons’ unbridled energy stirred the blood. The violas showed their mettle at the opening of the mechanistic and relentless third movement; all the time one felt that this work, this composer, this orchestra and this conductor were a perfect match.
The pensive slow movement was moving and haunting. Nelsons employed fast tempi in the Finale, and brought the work swiftly to its blazing climax before dying away. The audience at the end seemed to have stopped breathing. The raw intensity of the work was apparent. It left even this energetic conductor visibly drained.