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A Midsummer Viennese New Year’s Concert

Lütfi Kirdar Auditorium
06/24/2016 -  & June 20, 21 (Vienna), 25 (Izmir), 2016
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Tempest, op. 18
Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major
Antonín Dvorák: Symphony No. 7 in D minor, op. 70, B. 141

Alice Sara Ott (pianist)
Wiener Symphoniker, Robert Trevino (conductor)

R. Trevino (© Musacchio&Ianniello)

This was the closing concert of the 44th edition of the Istanbul Music Festival and excitement was in the air. Tourism is in considerable decline since a recent bombing in Istanbul and a Polish orchestra scheduled to take part in the festival had cancelled and was replaced by another. Media hyperbole and the average person’s ignorance of the reality of life in more exotic places is frustrating to the locals, especially in a metropolis such as Istanbul where the Westernized middle class utterly thinks of itself as European (and judging from Istanbul beyond the historic touristy centre with its Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques and palaces, it definitely is). Already besieged by a conservative populist government that is trying to undo decades of progress and westernization, Turkish aficionados of classical music need support rather than rejection by foreign musicians. Apparently members of the Wiener Symphoniker had taken a vote and the majority decided to come to Istanbul. Perhaps rumours of this decision contributed to the public’s extremely warm reception.

The concert took place in the Lütfi Kirdar Auditorium in the very centre of the city. With its 2000 seat capacity, it is Istanbul’s largest classical music venue. Under the baton of American rising star conductor Robert Trevino, the orchestra opened with Tchaikovsky’s Tempest Overture, a mood setting piece. The orchestra transitioned elegantly from the initial storm music into the sweet love music of Miranda and Ferdinand. The recurring love theme was played with increasing passion until the overture’s final scene where Prospero renounces magic and the island disappears. German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott was the soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a bit of a strange choice for such a brilliant soloist. Dominated by the orchestra rather than by the piano, this fragmented concerto was a bit of an experiment in form by Liszt. The orchestra leads almost throughout the short 20 minutes long truncated concerto where the six movements indicate tempi more than separate segments. Only in the last two movements, Marziale un poco meno allegro and Allegro animato, is there an irruption of pianistic bravura. Coming back on stage barefoot, Ott appropriately chose for encore Liszt’s Etude No. 6, the piano transcription of Paganini’s Caprice No. 24, a technically demanding work where she revelled in the vertiginous scales and arpeggios.

Best about this concert was the progression from good to better! After a majestic interpretation of Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7, the Czech composer’s most somber, the orchestra gave for its first encore his Slavonic Dance No. 1, building up for an upeat grand finale. Second was Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and last was Johann Strauss’s Tritsch-Tratsch Polka. All the encores were played with typical Viennese humour, with the orchestra coming to total pauses whenever the music allowed, making the following accelerated crescendi more frenetic and leading the public into rhythmic clapping within the pieces and delirious applause at the end of each work. The enthusiasm, with some almost dancing in their seats, got more and more intense with every encore, bringing an appropriate end to this exciting concert and to this year’s Istanbul Music Festival. Though it was the summer solstice and the location was Istanbul, the thrill came as close as can be to a New Year’s concert in Vienna.

Ossama el Naggar



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