Korngold’s lost masterpiece, a thrilling and luscious delight from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
BRAHMS AND KORNGOLD ★★★★
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall, March 31 (and April 2)
In this ambitious doubleheader, former child prodigy turned film composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold emerged victorious, eclipsing the great old man of Romanticism, Johannes Brahms.
Spurred on by the passionate and far-sighted advocacy of conductor Benjamin Northey, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra gave a thrilling account of the Symphony in F sharp major, Op. 40, bringing much belated kudos to this lost 20th-century symphonic masterpiece, 70 years after it was composed and 50 years since its first performance.
Cast in four movements, written for a massive orchestra and lasting a good part of an hour, the symphony testifies to an extraordinarily fertile musical spirit, capable of generating kaleidoscopic orchestration, swashbuckling tunes , sumptuous harmonies and grandiose musical architecture.
Northey and the orchestra were attentive to all these elements, whether in the disciplined and rhythmic playing of the energetic first movement and the quicksilver scherzo, or in the searing melodic melancholy of the third movement which gives way to a lively finale, in which the material of the previous movements are ingeniously incorporated.
Such brilliant and totally committed playing will long be remembered, albeit at the cost of a rather lackluster curtain-raiser, Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Here virtues that abounded in the Korngold, such as clarity and rhythmic incisiveness, appeared elusive.