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Salzburg: The Second Petrenko Coup |

Salzburg: The Second Petrenko Coup |

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s second Salzburg concert program has redefined access to the musical avant-garde.

After Max Reger’s redemption on Sunday evening, Kirill Petrenko selected one of the most poetic programs a conductor could choose for the second evening of the Berliner Philharmonic’s Salzburg Guest Performance: The Hardest Beethoven, the Eighth, in a lively, profound, and sparkling reading, alongside Brahms’s Haydn and Orchestra’s Variations Great for Schöneberg.

Heavy festival fare

The fare is already exorbitant, and some festival-goers still complain about the constant jitters. And yet: if it is twelve-tone music, that is, one would think, as soon as Berliners hear this work played under Petrenko. In terms of performance history, this orchestra is responsible for this remarkable work of art of the Viennese school in two respects: under Furtwängler it once gave the first performance, and under Karajan it made the final recording, as transparent and colorful as possible.

You should know that Karajan changed the seating arrangement of his musicians from one variety to another in order to achieve the best possible sonic mix in each situation. In this way, he converted the Philharmonic into a recording studio and decided never to perform this piece live again, because what could be heard on the recording was not possible under normal concert conditions.

Petrenko is free

That was in 1974. Thirty-nine years later, the successors of the then community of musicians under Petrenko’s leadership proved that times had changed. At least for her. I don’t think there is a second orchestra today capable of playing Schoenberg’s Varieties at this level, as the Berliners did on Monday evening in the Salzburg Festival Hall.

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The ingenuity of the Berliners

What Karajan had previously intended becomes a straightforward event: for each of the short variations, in which Schönberg breaks up his theme of four parts and twelve tones in cantabola by cello and violin and dissolves it into shimmering scraps of sound, the orchestra mixes a palette anew. The brilliant presentation of the resonant theme, which still sounds like an echo of Brahms’ previously played romantic resonant variations, has dissolved more and more into the chamber music. Almost every musician became a soloist, even the double bass players on the first console completed duets as delicate as their woodwind colleagues.

and at last the community of musicians began to reach its climax more rapidly than ever before, which, after a short speculative look back, literally exploded and elicited proper applause from the astonished audience: if a definition of festival was needed: here it must be heard.