Petrenko and the lyric Symphoniker

Kirill Petrenko and the Wiener Symphoniker brought an unusual program to the Musikverein this week: Zemlinsky’s Lyrische Symphonie, Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake, and Scriabin’s Le poème de l’extase. I wish I could have written about this sooner, because there were a disappointing amount of empty seats at Wednesday’s first of three concerts and it was really worth hearing. The Lyrische Symphonie can be easily described as a Das Lied von der Erde rip-off, and as a series of lush orchestral songs for two alternating vocal soloists set to Asian poetry, there are obvious similarities. However, Zemlinsky’s musical language is quite different, and so are his poems’ themes. Petrenko and the Symphoniker’s account was monumental and dramatic.

The first movement was gloriously un-transparent, not dissected as much as a thick, ever-shifting carpet of sound. After hearing many technically overworked and clinical performances recently, it was a lovely change to hear the whole orchestra together instead of eliciting reactions such as “oh, hi, oboe section!” The soloists were excellent and carefully traced the work’s journey for youth to love to loss, but Petrenko’s focus was more on the orchestra than on them. Baritone Wolfgang Koch sounded somewhat flat and detached in the first movement, but warmed up to an imposing, passionate delivery in the other movements. Suddenly ubiquitous soprano Camilla Nylund was much better suited to this work than she had been to Rosalinde or Salome, her silvery sound projecting perfectly but never losing its freshness. Her “Sprich zu mir, Geliebter” was beautifully floated.

This was a very smartly put-together program. Anatoly Liadov’s brief, quiet tone poem The Enchanted Lake is another shimmering atmosphere piece, but one of greater delicacy, recalling a Russian Debussy. It served as a good introduction to Scriabin’s heady Poème de l’extase, whose chaotic structure and kaleidoscope of themes was, like the Zemlinsky, a dazzling exercise in orchestral color and balance. And, at the end, we heard how very, very loud an orchestra of this size can be. But it never felt gratuitous.

The concert was hindered by some spectacularly ill-timed coughing, and was met with a disappointingly lukewarm reception. I thought it was unusual and glorious.

Wiener Symphoniker, Kirill Petrenko, conductor. Musikverein, 2/23/2011. With Camilla Nylund, soprano and Wolfgang Koch, baritone. Program: Zemlinsky, Lyrische Symphonie, op. 18; Liadov (Lyadov/Ljadow), The Enchanted Lake, op. 62; Scriabin (Skrjabin), Le Poème de l’extase, op. 54.

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  1. The Lyric Symphony seems to be doing rather well this year. Vladimir Jurowski has already conducted it in London, and Franz Welser-Möst will be leading the Vienna Philharmonic in Salzburg. It really is a wonderful piece, perhaps even a masterpiece.

  2. We had a wondeful one in Paris too, last december, by Peter Hirsch and Radio France Ph., Angela Denoke, and Peter Mattei. Possibly the best concert from a french orchestra this season, for now.