I cannot find any proper reason for coupling Beethoven 1st piano concerto with Mahler 5th Symphony. Seriously, it was quite dumb. At least Philharmonia didn’t program any 6 minutes overture that would had introduced a 7 minutes extra delay to place the piano on stage after it. Rant is over. Well, not so over because Beethoven concerto performance was problematic. It was not a technical problem from orchestra, pianist or conductor.
This review is easy: Benjamin Appl has one of the most beautiful baritone voices I have listened to in the recent years. He is charming and expressive and does a very intelligent singing. And the superb Graham Johnson is one of the top references as lieder pianist from the previous generation. So yes, they made it pretty well. With a programme focused on lieder with oriental themes, without no applause until the intermission it was risky to sing all these songs, with different moods all together almost without interruption.
When I got the ticket for this concert at Wigmore Hall with Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek very in advance I did it mostly interested on the Prokofiev violin sontata Op.80 and the one by Bernd Alois Zimmermann. The inclusion on the programme of two arrangements for violin and piano of two very popular works (Sibelius Valse Triste and the Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th) looked to me less appealing. On my way to the Wigmore Hall I realized the pattern across all the works in the programme.
After the somehow disappointing version of Mahler’s 4th by Gatti and RCO the Viennese came to proof which is the best European orchestra. They didn’t include any other work in the programme, just Mahler’s 6th. Harding arrived London after conducting this very same symphony twice with two different orchestras in the previous week. That is crazy and really difficult to do. On his side was the fact that the two previous ones, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris, are his orchestras and the VPO is… well, easy to guide for a Mahler.
This review is going to be full of rants. So let me enumerate them: 1: Best orchestra in the world According to British musical press Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is the best orchestra in the world. Yeah, I known that the panel for such ranking was international… but it was selected by a British medium. WTF. Because maybe choosing Berlin Philharmonic or Vienna Philharmonic or even Chigago SO was too mainstream they decided that the best one was the RCO.