Concertgebouw Orchestra offers 21st-century suspense and 19th-century confectionery

Last Friday, three women discussed the work of three deceased men in the Concertgebouw. The first was Annelies Van Parys, who watched as the Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Kristiina Poska, gave the world premiere of her Eco…del vuoto† The uninhibited listener heard music that wouldn’t look out of place in a haunted house, and that’s not meant to be disrespectful. It was bursting with suspense. Van Parys does not compose from a melody but weaves a complex web of colors and textures. The more introverted concert-goer heard a sophisticated play of quotes with the last piece by Luc Breways, Van Parys’ composition teacher who passed away in 2015, to whom it was dedicated. Perhaps that’s why the work ended apparently abruptly. In the middle of a sentence, like life itself.

For part of the Concertgebouw Orchestra audience, such a world premiere will always remain the vegetable that they have to swallow with some 19th-century sugar. It came in the form of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. He based his violin concerto on a clear and well-known theme of recognition. The piece had a passionate advocate in the expressive violinist Alina Ibragimova. Ibragimova produced a sweet, round sound, and now and then the tip of her violin almost touched her knee: that’s how deep she dived into her instrument. But when she stood still, dead straight, in a silent passage, that also had maximum effect. A deeply lived performance.

After the break, KCO debutant Poska was allowed to shine her light on Beethoven. Just like Van Parys’ piece was Eroica once dedicated to an admired man, Napoleon, but as is well known, Beethoven furiously scratched his hero’s name from the score after he betrayed the ideals of the revolution. The Estonian conductor didn’t seem too concerned with whether the orchestra was playing ‘beautiful’ enough, the musicians of the KCO do, but with freshness. The pace was brisk, and there was air in the whole thing. Poska allowed the musicians to play agile and sometimes even bits. Still, it absolutely never went over the head and the orchestra kept a grounded sound. Poska’s alert conducting style was as graceful as it was sovereign. During the applause, she also ran up and down the stairs of the Concertgebouw with such bloodliness that the impression was created that she could do the entire concert again on site.

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