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Disillusionment from Oslo: Tchaikovsky in Old Look

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Klaus Makela at the Vienna Concerthaus: lots of cheers, but also unfulfilled expectations.

Maris Jansson has been the most important principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic to date. In a long and painstaking work, he formed a world-class orchestra out of middle-class orchestras. Jansons and Histories of Interpretation in Oslo were written foremost in the Tchaikovsky cycle. And also because they corrected the popular image of the composer bathing in emotion and aiming for cheap effects.

One was quite surprised when the Oslo Philharmonic, led by its current musical director Klaus Makela, returned to the earlier Tchaikovsky tradition once again in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Book, “Pathetic”. With unbridled elan accompanied by powerful dynamics, Makela pushed his music into the first movement, as if trying to tame an uncontrollable tornado at the end. After this powerful round, there is not enough calm to convey in a convincing way the melancholy waltz atmosphere of the second movement. It was vaguely implied that Tchaikovsky called it Allegro con Grazia. Makela indulged in the enthusiastically ensuing Allegro molto vivace. In order to perfect these sections at the tempo he set, he would have required a technically better and more refined orchestra with more transparency and culture of sound. His tonal flaws are most evident in the final movement of the Pathétique, which has been charged with much pathos and has recently been heard in a more interesting and differentiated presentation under Currentzis at the Konzerthaus.