Concert review: Staatskapelle Dresden - dreamland of German Romanticism

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 March, 2015, 6:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 March, 2015, 6:05am

Liszt, Wagner and Strauss

Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden

Concert Hall, Cultural Centre

Reviewed: February 28

I emerged from this concert with Christian Thielemann conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden having basked in a dreamland of German Romanticism, with Liszt's Orpheus, Wagner's Siegfried-Idyll and Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben.

Liszt's Orpheus, Symphonic Poem No 4, is a touching depiction of Orpheus, his lyre and the loss of his wife. The opening was a quiet horn note paired with glinting harp arpeggios. It continued with a melody full of longing. The oboe and violin solos were very sweet and expressive. The piece rose to a stormy peak and subsided to hushed anguish with utmost control.

Wagner's Siegfried-Idyll had a similarly unpretentious lullaby melody. Wagner set a tender mood, played seamlessly by the strings, overlaid with ominous hints from the brass, creating a web of mesmerising, fluctuating emotions.

Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) was not so modest - the hero is the composer himself. But he also injected a note of irony including raucous flutes as music critics.

The first theme, depicting the composer, was a sprawling affair spanning several octaves. Busy string lines suggested the hyperactive workings of the composer's mind. The adventures that followed included love, "flight from this world" and "fulfilment".

The virtuoso violin solo was stupendously played by Matthias Wollong. His vibrato had beautiful warmth, as unforced as a bird singing.

The overwhelming impression of this concert was transcendence. All three composers set up an expectation of arrival points, and then reached an even higher mark. There were multiple moments of this breathtaking effect. It's like a light coming on the stage.