European Weeks -Weekends of Contrasts

Vienna Chamber Orchestra in Engelszell

„LIGHT Hearts, Joyful Minds”

” – according to the programme of the concert in the Upper Austrian monastery Engelszell, it went under this creatively conceived motto, with “joyful” works of “enormous popularity”. Happily, this was not exactly the case – the pieces were neither banal nor too often heard, but rather profound and put together thoughtfully.

Already in the Mendelssohn String Symphony in b minor, well-suited as a warm-up piece, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, under its chief conductor Stefan Vladar, delicately sounded out the darker sides of the Adagio, before it got down to business in the Allegro movement, briskly differentiating the dynamics perfectly.

Then, the outstanding Bösendorfer grand piano took centre stage and with it Stefan Valdar as pianist. Mozart extolled his Piano Concerto in A Major, K.414, in a letter to his father as ” very brilliant – and pleasant to the ears” and that was exactly how the audience in the church of the monastery heard it:

pearly and crystal clear  passages and flawlessly placed chords with discreet use of the pedal. It was fascinating to see how very much the orchestra paid attention to its conductor/pianist as an intimate, almost chamber music-like, atmosphere arose in the delicate Adagio.

After the intermission – which had been incorrectly printed in the programme as later in the concert – and after Samuel Barber’s gripping “Adagio for Strings” came Tchaikovsky’s

“Souvenir de Florence” : actually composed as a string sextet the equally varied and unique work also sounds absolutely splendid in the orchestral instrumentation. Full, intense string sound with radiant violins on one side and soft, deep bass on the other. With full physical commitment, Stefan Vladar succeeds in motivating his orchestra to produce even more nuanced articulation, even more pathos in the sumptuous themes of the Adagio Cantabile. In the last movement, he forces the celli to dig in roughly, with a rotating arm cranks up the tempo of the furious closing stretto, with its forceful, accented closing chords. a fulminant finale, a beaming orchestra,  an enthusiastic audience – and light hearts, joyful minds everywhere.

Hildegard Franz