Paavo Berglund conducts Shostakovich & Stravinsky
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Cat No: SBT21500
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 20th October 2014
WorksSymphony no.8 in C minor, op.65
Concerto for piano and wind instruments
ArtistsOlli Mustonen (piano)
The concert in May 2001 by Paavo Berglund and Olli Mustonen divided opinions. Christiane Peitz found in the Tagesspiegel on 19 May 2001, that the pianist had given a ‘robot-like’ performance of Stravinsky’s Concerto: he ‘sits at the piano and strikes. Every accent an attack, each syncopation a hit. [...] Stravinsky becomes pure performance: a triadic ballet, mad, ecstatic robotic music including distorted echoes of Bach’s polyphonies.’
Klaus Geitel wrote in the Berliner Morgenpost the same day: ‘Stravinsky’s Concerto, played by the Philharmonic wind section with the greatest artistry, orientates itself on the one hand towards the sprightliness of old toccatas and on the other towards the gravitas of Baroque music. The role of the pianist is to hammer his part in between: a musical goldsmith with steely fingers. Only in the Largo of the second movement is he permitted to indulge in melancholy thoughts and dreams of a pianistic vocal line. Mustonen played the Allegros with attack and assuredly sprinting brio – he showed his pianistic delicacy in the Largo.’
The main work of the evening was the Eighth Symphony by Shostakovich, composed and premiered in 1943 - an extensive five-movement work in which the composer reflects on the suffering and horrors of the Second World War. Tagesspiegel critic Christiane Peitz felt the performance was lacking the ‘courage required for merciless precision’. It seemed to her that Berglund was not interested in the contrast (carried to extremes) between the music’s show of strength and its ‘beautiful sections’.
Klaus Geitel focused on the fundamentals: Shostakovich’s Eighth too often loses itself in ‘heroic lachrymosity’, a characteristic that only fades in his late symphonic works. ‘In the Eighth, however, it is still there – panting as if in ideological chains and regulations, and while it is evident that Shostakovich rattles them, it is however without casting off the internal or external bonds.’ Nevertheless, Paavo Berglund had directed the performance of the work with ‘thoroughly expert hands’ (Berliner Morgenpost).
This concert recording from May 2001 is a rare and historic document, giving insight into the characters of both interpreters: on the one hand, the seasoned, highly experienced conductor – on the other, the still-young, but already internationally recognised and sought-after pianist.
No matter how critics assessed Paavo Berglund and Olli Mustonen’s appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic and the performances they gave together – anyone who experienced this concert was witness to an unforgettable, exceptional and exciting evening and the thought-provoking encounter of two very different musical personalities.
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