Dresden Staatskapelle - review

St David's Hall, Cardiff

Prior to opening the big music festival in their home city this week, the Dresden Staatskapelle whirled their way round Europe, with concerts in Cardiff and Birmingham as the last leg of the tour.

The orchestra's German title, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, reflects its foundation in the 16th century by a Saxon prince, but it is the glorious glow of their sound that announces their remarkable heritage.

Conductor Christoph Eschenbach opened with the rarely performed Schumann overture, The Bride of Messina. Had the libretto based on Schiller's tragedy come his way earlier in his career, it might have provided Schumann with the success that his opera Genoveva was denied, but the overture lacks the heat of inspiration, and the lyrical clarinet line was somewhat submerged in Eschenbach's interpretation.

The young German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich was the soloist in Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations. Elschenbroich boasts a warm and often sumptuous tone that projected well, yet his mannered approach to the already slightly artificial tenor of Tchaikovsky's homage to Mozart impeded the flow. It was in the simplicity of the minor mode sixth variation that his artistry came through, followed by the brilliant allegro vivo.

Brahms's First Symphony in C minor was the main work, and in the first three movements, Eschenbach was often briskly matter-of-fact, but built an underlying momentum that allowed energies to culminate in the majestic finale, where the strings could both bask in the breadth of the famous C major theme and burnish it.

Contributor

Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

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