Berg Violin Concerto (To the Memory of an Angel); Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 (Scottish); Schleiermacher Relief for Orchestra
Baiba Skride (violin); Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Andris Nelsons
Accentus Music DVD: ACC20443; Blu-ray: ACC10443 92:57 mins
Andris Nelsons’s official opening concert as principal conductor of the Gewandhausorchester offers top-flight music-making being allowed – and with Nelsons at the helm, ceaselessly encouraged – to do its own talking. As recorded in the city’s handsome new(ish) Gewandhaus Hall, the sound is a feast in its own right – a lovely balance of clarity, spaciousness, and glowing warmth. Possibly Baiba Skride’s solo violin in Berg’s Concerto is rather to the fore, but not at the expense of orchestral detail, perception of which is for once actually enhanced rather than obstructed by the visual editing. For instance in the passage in the slow finale where the solo violin’s line is gradually joined by the rest of the first violin section playing in unison, Skride turns round to face them as she plays with them – a lovely moment, caught by the camera.
With Skride’s unfussy account of Berg’s musical portrayal of the winsome personality, illness, death, and imagined heavenward ascent of Manon Gropius, Alma Mahler’s teenage daughter, the work becomes as moving as it should be. Her encore is a solo piece by von Westhoff, a Bach contemporary from neighbouring Dresden. In tribute to a celebrated former Gewandhaus music director, Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony is played with poise and gorgeousness: I wonder what the orchestra thought of Nelsons’s near-impossibly quick tempo for the Vivace non troppo second movement? Leipzig composer Steffen Schleiermacher’s concert opener, Relief, provides all too predictable, in-your-face contrasts of frosted-glass stillness and punchy rhetoric.