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An absolute rarity by an outstanding composer is played relatively seldom in Hungarian concert halls.

This is exactly what happened at the latest concert of the BUDAPEST FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, who played Robert Schumann’s The Bride of Messina (Die Braut von Messina, op. 100), an overture composed to Schiller’s drama, which received a cold welcome at its premiere and has been neglected ever since by the concert industry (together with two other Schumann overtures completed in 1851, namely Hermann und Dorothea and Julius Caesar). The conductor, LOUIS LANGRÉE (1961-) born in Mulhouse, was the Chief Music Director of the National Opera in Lyon between 1998 and 2000, the period between Kent Nagano and Iván Fischer, and currently the successor of Leonidas Kavakos, he is the music director of Camerata Salzburg. Langrée, relying on the Festival Orchestra which was in excellent form, fittingly depicted the passion and tragedy of the dark, impulsive composition in C minor: his interpretation was characterised by a robust sound, numerous strong accents and irresistible momentum. It goes without saying that tenderness was also important in the performance, where Schumann went lyrical, somewhere around the second subject played by the clarinet solo. What I also felt important in the toolkit of the conductor was the easing of tension and gradations. Judging by the overture I had the impression that Louis Langrée was not a charismatic personality, but a sensitive and accurate musician conducting in a refined manner, placing emphasis on tiny details and nuances.

However, after the interval in Brahms Symphony No. 3 he seemed to be much more remarkable and suggestive. To be more precise: during the performance and progressing towards the finale he went through a gradual transformation, redrawing the self-portrait we had had of him by the end of the overture. The Allegro con brio was mostly characterised by the Janus-face so typical of Brahms’s opening movements: the quick succession of dramatic tension and soft, lyrical periods. Langrée seems to have preferred tenderness, the soft, lyrical domain, but he was also energetic. The source of this energy was not passion but solemn pathos. The Andante in C major was painted with bright colours, the elastic pizzicatos of the bass of the string section generously framed the actions of the winds, the rich symphonic sound was at its full at the dynamic climaxes. The Poco allegretto in C minor with the melancholic cantilena of the cellos evoked as always the peacefulness of dark tones, the dignity of the invisible suffering of the soul. (The critic does his best to avoid comparisons with rusty-leaved October forests, but at a certain point, where all good performances allude to the colours and moods of nature acquiescing in death, he becomes helpless.) The finale, with the impressive performance, diligence, power, flow, not to mention the rich sound and passionate gestures, helped Louis Langrée show us his most attractive side in the last moments of the concert. (As regards the BFO, I cannot describe a similar process of opening up and reaching their best as Iván Fischer’s orchestra showed us their best side all through the concert.)

Between the Schumann overture and the Brahms Symphony, as the second piece of the first part of the concert, we heard Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor (op.54). (Langrée, in the film shown before the concert, named Clara Schumann as the link between the three pieces.) American soloist, RICHARD GOODE (1943), renowned as a Beethoven specialist and a first-class chamber musician, leader of the Marlboro Festival, has made several appearances with the BFO. With Iván Fischer they produced a remarkable recording of the five Beethoven piano concertos. The album is comparable to the productions of Schiff, Haitink and the Staatskapelle Dresden, Kiszin, Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, or Aimard, Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. In Goode’s Schumann interpretation I felt the sonorous piano sound to be of decisive importance, capable of reflecting the quick succession of changes in mood characterising the extreme individualism encoded in music. Similarly critical were the breathing liberty and talkativeness of adjusted rhythm and the shaping of melody. The opening movement, Allegro affettuoso, provided a blend of contemplating melancholy and heroic temper, the Intermezzo – with an Andantino tempo indication – brought the moments of intimate chamber music, so rare in this genre. The finale was full of the joy and passion of the “knightly galloping” so typical of Schumann, which remained unaffected even by the memory lapse around the middle of the movement.

(25 November – Béla Bartók National Concert Hall. Organised by: the Budapest Festival Orchestra)