REVIEW – Anders Nilssons drives Mahler in Salzburg
08/08/2022 by Bernhard Neuhoff
His career has been quite steep: at 43 years old, Anders Nilsson from Latvia is one of the most famous conductors of bands in the world. In Salzburg, he has performed Mahler’s Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra every year since Marcus Hinterhauser was director of the festival. So this is the fifth time. Before that there was the second piano concerto by Bartok with Yefim Bronfmann.
Image source: SF / Marco Borelli
The first element of the program is disappointment: pianist Yevim Bronfman plays the wonderful second piano concerto Béla Bartok in a strangely blurred way, somehow everything seems a little confused. This piece could have been a hit with the audience for so long, there’s a lot of rhythmic energy in it. Of course, it is not always necessary for Bartok to be hammered “barbarically” in the keys in a vulgar way. But the many small decorations must shine – and the piano must stand confidently against the unbridled beats of the orchestra. Bronfman was lacking a stinger. And the conductor Anders Nelson was busy coordinating… – Too bad. We were even more excited about the second half with Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.
Anders Nelsons – A World Class Leader
When he speaks, Anders Nelson still sounds like a nice up-and-coming bandleader. Not cool at all, but he’s full of enthusiasm and constant enthusiasm, talking about what he’s doing. Sometimes he seems rather innocent. During rehearsals, he pushes himself to the limit with one hundred and fifty percent passion. And he always remains very friendly and positive in dealing with everyone involved, which is unfortunately in no way of course for famous bandleaders. The beloved 43-year-old has long since reached central positions of power in the field of classical music. As president of the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he has formed two of the world’s most famous orchestras. There is also an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
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Image source: SF / Marco Borggreve
Musically, Nelsons rests firmly on the traditional, rich, romantic, musical sound. He approaches the first movement of Mahler’s fifth at a fairly calm pace. This funeral procession is moving very slowly. Especially since Nelson slows him down over and over again. Mahler explicitly wrote about it “rigorously” as an instruction to perform. Basically, Nelsons doesn’t like things to be strict – he likes to follow the emotional curves of music, including in terms of tempo. On Sunday, too, it sounded authentic and exuberant with a reliable feel. However, this flexibility in tempo can sometimes reduce the emotional impact – and a less lazy tempo would have been more exciting. Mahler’s sense of sadness comes with an overwhelming intensity anyway – when the rigors of the continuous rhythm are met rigidly, the feelings are stronger.
Nelson in his element
Then the “scherzo” ensemble succeeds brilliantly – the horns of the Vienna Philharmonic, which are built somewhat differently from all other orchestras in the world, look fantastically warm. Their particularly warm voice is one of the hallmarks of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. In this movement, Mahler shakes everything up – joy and pain, folk and counterpoint, major and minor. Here is Nelson’s emotional musician, who is interacting at the moment, who is entirely in his musical element. It also proves his technical mastery. The famous “Adagietto” gets under your skin – this stringy voice sometimes sounds unrealistic floating, sometimes dark glowing, but never emotional. Everyone is in another world. And woke up to cut the mystery of the epilogue. Irony in music isn’t necessarily Nelson’s forte. And so he takes this busy ending very straightforward. There is no revolutionary Mahler interpretation, nor a new discovery – rather, he is one with the most love and affection.
Broadcasting: “Leporello” on August 8, 2022 From 4:05 pm at BR-KLASSIK
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