Pastoral Brahms, BSP at Poole Lighthouse

Schumann     Manfred Overture
Dvořák           Violin Concerto
Brahms          Symphony No. 2

Conductor Clemens Schuldt
Baiba Skride, violin

“PASTORAL Brahms”, we were promised by the programme.  Brahms’s second symphony was written hard on the heels of his long-awaited first in 1877 when the composer was in his mid-forties.

It is often seen as a relaxed, pastoral piece, written in a summer holiday mood on an Austrian lakeside, Brahms in a mellow frame of mind after the rigours and struggles of the first symphony. My own introduction to it, on an LP conducted by Guido Cantelli, certainly bore this out, the music conjuring up a languorous haze almost like Delius.

The young German conductor Clemens Schuldt was having none of that.  This was Brahms unvarnished, lean, taut, muscular and invigorating.  Schuldt is a dynamic and expressive presence on the podium, oozing authority and enthusiasm. The BSO responded to him magnificently, enjoying the challenge of his very fast tempi and his gimlet-eyed attention to orchestral detail.

The effect was intoxicating and revelatory, and a quite different Brahms 2 emerged. I was struck by the sheer originality, inventiveness and clarity of Brahms’s orchestration, and the drama and tension of his musical argument.  This magnificent performance was received with instant and sustained enthusiasm by the well-filled hall.

The concert had started with a performance of Schumann’s Manfred Overture. It is a portrait of Byron’s romantic hero, and Schuldt ably brought out the tortured psychology of the music’s subject. The music makes heavy demands on all the string sections, and the orchestra responded with poise and confidence.

Dvořák’s Violin Concerto has never really threatened to become as popular as the other 19th century mainstays of the repertoire, like the Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruch and Tchaikovsky concerti. It is hard to see why: the thematic material is instantly memorable and appealing, as is so much of Dvořák’s music, and the Latvian violinist Baiba Skride gave a persuasive account of it, especially in the lyrical second movement. We have a chance to hear Dvořák’s possibly even more neglected Piano Concerto coupled with his Fifth Symphony on 8th May.


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