Edinburgh festival classical review: Staatskapelle Dresden/Luisi / Usher Hall

Staatskapelle Dresden/Luisi, Usher Hall

With its subtitle "a new Don Quixote", it was easy to understand why the Staatskapelle Dresden chose to programme Bernhard Lang's Monadology II with Richard Strauss's tone poems Don Juan and Don Quixote. Unfortunately, though, the concert had to be cancelled - the musicians had arrived in Edinburgh but their instruments had not. In the event, the UK premiere of Lang's work was given the following evening, appended to the second of the Staatskapelle Dresden's programmes by way of a hefty postlude.

Lang has written about the cellular processes and automata that comes into play in the creation of his work; the audible effect is of countless repetitions of small motives, what could be described as a kind of complex minimalism. The music, a 20-minute span divided into several sections, is attractive but not particularly engaging, while at the same time the piece isn't brilliant or attention-grabbing enough to work simply as an orchestral showcase.

This was a rather low-key ending to what was a decidedly underwhelming occasion all round. The promise of one of the old German orchestras playing the music of Richard Strauss, a composer with which it was closely associated, was tantalising, but its performance of Ein Heldenleben failed to deliver, conductor Fabio Luisi reaching for extremes by both driving the music, failing to give it space, and conversely giving the slow sections so much space that an air of torpor set in. Nor was Hélène Grimaud's performance of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto any more convincing, her tone bland and monochromatic, any understanding of the work's structure apparently absent.

Only the overture to Weber's Oberon at the start of the programme showed the luminosity of tone of which this orchestra is capable, albeit here in a rather fragile, tentative manner.

Contributor

Rowena Smith

The GuardianTramp

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