Performer: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
We celebrate this year the bicentennials of two of the most influential composers of the 19th century. Yet celebrations in Amsterdam have been rather one-sided so far.
It is the rare concert for which one can say that each half of the program would have sufficed as the sole offering of the night; when each half contains personality, wisdom, a sense of history, life-risking music-making, and attractive and important repertoire.
With the exception of the St Petersburg Symphony, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is the only one I can recall walking onto a silent, empty, Usher Hall stage en masse. I don't know why this feature should strike me so – perhaps mere schoolteacher overtones. The welcome was warm and sustained until all 115 members were in place for Mahler’s monumental Symphony no.
Amsterdam audiences must be spoiled by hearing the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra so often. In this second concert of two at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw again used their immaculate sound and tonal palette to lyrical effect, this time not in Bartók and Mahler, but Strauss and Bruckner.
Two programmes, four works, and nothing written before 1880: the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and their chief conductor Mariss Jansons certainly know how to play to their strengths on tour. What strengths they are, too. This orchestra generates a uniquely warm sound, maintains scrupulously clean textures, and possesses technical skills that surpass even the finest of other orchestras.