The Minnesota Orchestra finishes its European tour in Vienna today (March 5), and judging from the glowing reviews that are filtering back, the musicians may have to pay extra baggage fees to check their swelled heads at the airport.
Not that we begrudge them. There are plenty of hometown swelled heads among orchestra fans who have been reading the reviews posted by the orchestra on its website.
Here are some excerpts that struck my eye, though you sometimes have to take into account the awkwardness of German-to-English translations.
From MusicWeb International: “Right away, in the opening cluster of complex off-beat rhythms of woodwind, brass and percussion of the (John) Adams work (‘Slonimsky’s Earbox’), I was struck (by) the sheer accuracy of orchestral articulation: everything absolutely in tune and together with an amazing transparency.”
From Westdeutsche Zeitung, Dusseldorf, in describing the performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3: “Not letting this resounding monument to a hero harden into marble, nor winding it up briskly — that is the art of the performance. Conductor Osmo Vanska establishes stringent tempos, powerful accents and painstaking emphasis of musical details; the Minnesota Orchestra follows him willing and with polished technical skills.”
From Stuttgarter Nachrichten, in describing the performance of Sibelius’ Second Symphony: “Vanska and his highly motivated musicians have the sense of time and measured breathing to shape the four movements into a unified whole. Despite tempos that at times are unusually rapid, a great calm permeates the interpretation, or better put: a calm greatness.”
Bonn General-Anzeiger: “For the encounter with the Dane, Carl Nielsen, who is rarely taken into account here, we can be thankful. Here and there the Fifth Symphony breathes the sacred air of Sibelius, but otherwise the prevailing mood is that of giving wings to the spirit of an era as it presses onward. The closing E-major chord then seems to want to bring harmonic reconciliation. Overwhelmingly brilliant orchestra playing, Osmo Vanska in turn as an unflinchingly confident podium strategist.”
Berliner Zeitung, in describing the performance of violinist Joshua Bell: “Bell, a master of shadings, is a fantastic storyteller on his instrument, and he leaves no gaps as he fills the broad epic sweep of the first two movements (of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto) with meaning: the depiction of an idyllic situation with its risks, which at least, in the epilogue-like final movement written shortly after World War II erupted, is overturned in a virtuoso description of being chased with no chance to breathe.”
And Berliner Zeitung again: “And Osmo Vanska, the Finnish music director, drew out the full potential of his orchestra with impressively commanding body language also in Beethoven’s “Eroica” (Third Symphony), presented on the big screen without any explosive effects — the great string section was convincing with extraordinarily flexible dynamics and the woodwinds with the kind of individually exquisite colors that one is surprised to find in an American orchestra.”
Related content: Review in London Independent is high on Osmo Vanska, by Casey Selix, Feb. 25, 2009