Ingrid Haubold (soprano), NSO/ Johannes Wildner
Symphony No 40 - Mozart
Four Last Songs - Strauss
Mozart Variations - Reger
The National Symphony Orchestra's concert on Friday night was a clear instance of a tiresome performing phenomenon, which might best be summed up by borrowing a phrase: life begins at forte. The levelling of dynamics, with rarely anything below mezzo forte, was allowed to range through all three composers.
Nor were there many compensating factors in other aspects of the music-making. Johannes Wildner's conducting style was energetic. The effect in Mozart was of whipped brutality. The pressure was far too intense for much sensitivity in Strauss's Four Last Songs and though Ingrid Haubold sang heftily, her efforts were frequently obliterated by the orchestra.
Max Reger is a composer notorious for textural density and insatiable chromatic appetite. Yet his Mozart Variations are full of detailing intended to distinguish between important material and the florid arabesques with which he surrounded it. Not much of Reger's care was evident in this performance, where concerns of difficulty and the natural speaking strengths of individual instruments frequently governed the balances achieved. To be fair to the conductor, he indicated a lot in his gestures which the orchestra blithely ignored, and they applauded him warmly at the end of the evening. But the musical results were of a low order indeed.