Rossini, Mendelssohn and Mahler

Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, Saturday October 24 2015

Conductor: Yuri Temirkanov. Soprano: Camilla Tilling. St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Rossini: Barber of Seville overture
  • Mendelssohn: Symphony N°4, Italian Symphnoy
  • Mahler: Symphony N°4.
Yuri Temirkanov
An evening of undemonstrative virtuosity. You might call Temirkanov an "anti-Bernstein". His gestures are sparing and his conducting seems (ars being celare artem) likeably literal and straightforward: no showiness (or showmanship), no lush wallowing, no violent extremes, no pulling the score about: when the score comes to an abrupt halt (e.g. the end of the second movement of the Mahler), no slowing down to smooth the abruptness out. The magnificent orchestra comes across, under his guidance, as quietly impressive: one vast, neat, gently humming machine, with not so much a sense of separate sections as one of a single, intricately interconnected mechanism. Never a note out of place, of course; not one quack from a horn or a trumpet. Everything just so, legible, fresh and clear - though presumably not to every Mahler-lover's taste, as I think they often enjoy a wallow or two, and it's precisely that sort of self-indulgence that has put me off Mahler since I was a teenager. Fortunately there was no self-indulgence here and the music's frequent grotesqueness was tempered.

Was it my imagination, because I knew where the performers came from, that I sometimes heard Tchaikovsky in the Rossini (the "handing over" of runs from section to section), Prokofiev (his Classical Symphony) in the Mendelssohn and Petruschka in the Mahler?

Camilla Tilling (standing in for Lucy Crowe, off sick) was expressive and charming but perhaps a bit lightweight, though you might say her blending into the orchestral sound, rather than soaring above it, was right in a context where the notion of orchestral togetherness was so strong.


  1. I can't believe we were both at the same concert. The overture was played in a business like manner with precision but little joy. The Mendelssohn was a foursquare performance with almost no ebb and flow to the music. There were a few technical errors by the orchestra, probably due to the very imprecise beat given to the players by the conductor. In the Mahler, one hoped for more. Even the sometime famous St Petersburg brass sounded very standard issue. Although well disciplined, there was never a moment when the Mahlerian impulse was released. No poetry at all was displayed in the first two movements. In the slow movement, some shaping and phrasing was detectable, but the ironic and violent interruptions were totally restrained. The soprano sang sweetly in the final movement, but there was little feeling of peace at the quiet conclusion. Better stick to Tchaik next time, Yuri!


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