Comparisons are inescapable. After two Proms this week of Mozart piano concertos and Bruckner symphonies from Daniel Barenboim and his Berlin orchestra, here was Christian Thielemann and his revered Dresden orchestra also with a Mozart piano concerto and a Bruckner symphony.
The result – with apologies to the sensitive – was a score draw. Dresden was better in the Mozart, Berlin ultimately won out in the Bruckner. Dresden’s great advantage in the former was Daniil Trifonov’s sparkling and virtuosic account of Mozart’s C major concerto, K467. The sheer elan of Trifonov’s pianism, abetted by a full-size orchestra and attentive accompaniment from Thielemann, meant the concerto reached out into the huge spaces of the Albert Hall in ways that more fastidious accounts struggle to match. Trifonov’s unapologetic approach was embodied in his own first and third movement cadenzas, which had Profokiev-like zip, but he spun the Andante with a limpid touch, too. Appropriately, his encore was a Prokofiev transcription.
Thielemann is one of Europe’s most important musicians and his increasingly rare visits to the UK are special events. His account of Bruckner’s Third Symphony, in its second and much changed 1876-77 version, was sensationally well played. The depth of the Dresden string tone was outstanding and the brass a marvel of richness and splendour. Thielemann’s grip of the piece was indisputable and often very exciting. In the final analysis, though, this is a symphony that needs more suppleness and chiaroscuro around its frequent changes of direction than Thielemann allowed: his account was ultimately too unyielding to erase memories of the more textured approach of the Barenboim Bruckner performances earlier in the week.
- On BBC iPlayer until 7 October.