Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at the Old Opera, Frankfurt

While Ms B was visiting Mr B from London in Frankfurt recently, we decided to buy surprisingly good value tickets (at €50 each, for stalls seats in the centre 20 metres away from the stage) to see the world’s best symphony orchestra, Amsterdam’s Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest, perform pieces of Haydn and Mahler at Alte Oper in Frankfurt.

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 was, as it happens, conducted by the composer himself at the 1904 Dutch premiere of his work. This time around, it was directed by the amazing Daniele Gatti, who took over the reins at RCO at the beginning of the last season. Alte Oper, who have a long-standing cooperation arrangement with this orchestra, were welcoming Mr Gatti for the first time since he joined them.

(c) The Arts Desk (Featured image is by BerkeleySqB).

Some in the audience (not us) were initially rather disappointed when it was announced at the beginning of the evening, that Julia Kleiter, the soprano, had taken ill this morning, and was going to be replaced by Miah Persson, who is maybe best-known for her 2009 rendition of precisely this symphony with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Only the LCO can pull of a last-minute replacement like that. Tip to the hat.

First we were treated to just under 40 minutes of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major, a work thought to have been lost until it popped up unexpectedly in Prague in 1961. Tatjana Vassiljeva, the RCO’s lead cellist since 2014, outdid herself that evening and received 6 rounds or so of standing ovations, with Mr Gatti very gentlemanly letting her get most of the limelight.

Mahler’s symphony, the main bit of the evening, deeply impressed me. Ms B is generally not very keen on Mahler, so we’ll dismiss her views for this post, but I have always been a fan, and this performance just gave a completely new note to the composer’s oeuvre. Some of the purely orchestral parts with their double-bass lines and vibrant, recurring, fastmoving, varying sound patterns reminded me slightly of some masterpieces of electronic music. Other parts were interpreted again in a much more traditional way, especially where they accompanied the singer, whose voice stays with me. All this variety did not in any way reduce the perfect cohesion and recognisability of style.

For another symphony concert review, this time with #5 worldwide, the LSO, in London, click here. For Frankfurt restaurant reviews click here for two-starred Lafleur, or here for La Scuderia.

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