Franz Welser-Möst press reviews
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
The Guardian, Thursday 19 August 2010
by Tim Ashley
We don't hear the Cleveland Orchestra in the UK as often as we might. That their reputation as one of the world's great ensembles is richly deserved was borne out by the second of their Edinburgh concerts with their music director Franz Welser-Möst. The first half – extracts from Korngold's Die Tote Stadt and Berg's Lulu Suite – was high on orchestral virtuosity and textural eroticism, and you would be hard pressed to find either work better played or more perfectly controlled in terms of sonorities or balance.
Welser-Möst is very much at his ease in this repertoire, allowing it to unfold with a post-Mahlerian weight and logic that doesn't detract from its inherent headiness. He has the ability to remind us that Korngold is often better than we expect, bringing glamour and emotional nuance to bear on music that can sometimes teeter on kitsch. The Berg, meanwhile, has rarely sounded more ravishing, and the fluttering complexities of the Ostinato and Variations were immaculately detailed and layered. But just occasionally you wanted a bit more tension. The soprano was Laura Aikin, poised in the Berg, but not plush enough in the Korngold.
After the interval came Brahms's Second Symphony. The warmth of the orchestral sound was again remarkable, resulting in one of the most beautiful performances of the piece I've heard for a while. The whole thing just seemed to flow and evolve perfectly naturally in its own time and at its own pace. Remarkable.