I approached this concert with caution. The best my German dictionary could offer for the compound word “Klangverwaltung” was the forbiddingly Teutonic “sound administrators” which didn’t hold out the promise of much enjoyment.
But what’s in a name? After a gloriously vital, unbuttoned, rawly energetic performance of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, which crowned the concert, my initial reserve was swept aside.
The members are drawn from the major German symphony and opera orchestras – in essence a festival orchestra. Performing in one seems to liberate players, eliminating the glazed looks and stoic dourness many often show when doing the day job. Everyone was actively engaged with their colleagues as intensely as when playing chamber music.
The timpanist Babette Haag was typical, never resting, always animated. When not playing she swayed to the music, smiled at Beethoven’s musical jokes and nodded appreciatively at a soloist’s contribution. Her own, using hard-headed sticks, was impressive. Such enthusiasm is infectious: no wonder she got the loudest ovation I’ve heard for an orchestral timpanist.
The orchestra’s regular conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg was absent following a riding accident and was replaced by Heinrich Schiff. The late change may account for the start of Wagner’sSiegfried Idyll which instead of being hushed and mysterious was merely quiet and diffident.
Once into the passionate love music, however, inhibitions vanished, and this blossomed into a warmly affectionate performance. That was also true of Richard Strauss’s elegiac Four Last Songs [with soprano soloist Solveig Kringelborn. Tentative at first, she relaxed and let her voice soar for a radiant Beim Schlafengehen, joined by Andreas Reiner’s solo violin, then refining it to a whisper, with chirruping flutes, for the touching farewell of Im Abendrot.