Brahms: Symphony No. 2; Janácek: Glagolitic Mass
Muted colours, honeycomb patterns: the concert hall in Lucerne’s Culture and Congress Centre doesn’t give much food for the mind, or for a video camera either. But who needs fancy DVD visuals when the conductor is Mariss Jansons and the orchestra is his Munich wonder, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra?
Here we find them in action at the 2012 Lucerne Easter Festival. The booklet note attempts to link the two works as ‘idylls on the abyss of nostalgia’, and Jansons does his bit to soften the clamour of the Glagolitic Mass with broad tempos here and there. If you want a raw, more pagan reading, seek out Charles Mackerras; though Jansons’s mellower approach still allows for Iveta Apkalna’s fiery organ solo or the thrilling delivery of mezzo Marina Prudenskaja. She’s the best of the solo singers, all of them at ease singing in Old Church Slavonic.
The Brahms Symphony in Jansons’s hands is certainly an idyll. Darker passages come and go without disturbing the orchestra’s mellifluous warmth or Jansons’s exquisite phrasings. Time after time, his eyes shine with the most delicate rapture, as if he’s stroking a dormouse or some precious jewel. In a sense he is: the wind players certainly play with diamond precision, each bubbling note brilliantly etched.
Could more drama, more glue, have been applied? Yes; as it could in the JanáΩek. But in a hard world and a boring auditorium, affectionate music-making shouldn’t be snubbed. The sound recording is clear and spacious, and even the DVD looks crisp.