Haenchen triumphant at Royal Opera and Concertgebouw
German conductor Hartmut Haenchen has had quite the few months. Seven performances of the Vienna version of Wagner's Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera, London, and a return to the Concertgebouw Amsterdam with the Netherlands Philharmonic for three performances of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks in the original majestic orchestration and Shostakovich's devastating Symphony no.8. An interesting pairing of works that perfectly highlights the German maestro's original and challenging programming.
Hartmut Haenchen conducted. A seasoned veteran of the old school with a solid Middle European reputation, he avoided the temptation to solemn pomposity and opted instead for lightweight clarity, reminding us that this is music written by a young man, the heir to Weber and the contemporary of Nicolai and Marschner. The orchestra played with bright vivacity and precision, and the singers were never drowned out. The sum of it was a most attractive interpretation.
There is a majestically burnished overture from the admirable conductor Hartmut Haenchen
...Haenchen led the orchestra in a gloriously non-filological and breathtakingly non-historically informed performance of Handel’s music: a joy and a fest for the ears for those who would like to listen to baroque music outside the mainstream dictated by the ayatollah of the performance on period (but modern by any means...) instruments. Didn’t Handel write the Music for the Royal Fireworks for a hugeous band? Thus an orchestra of Brucknerian proportion (but faithful to Handel’s orchestration in contrast with Goossens’ reworking of the Messiah, recorded by Beecham, which would be interesting to bring back to the concert hall) to which the Maarschalkerweerd’s organ of the Concertgebouw hall added an extra symphonic dimension...
... Haenchen's [Shostakovich 8] rendering was perfectly carved, showing his Kapellmeister craftsmanship, leading the orchestra and the public in a musical journey through man’s sufferance and despair in war and oppression time. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra played superbly: powerfully brassy in those moments where the orchestral sound become almost physically painful, lyrical yet refined in the playing of the string the most subtle pianissimo. The German director perfectly mastered, in my opinion, the ambivalent character of this music, which apparently flows from the desolated despair of the vast first movement to the apparently optimistic Finale, which in Haenchen’s view seemed an open question about the possibility of salvation and survival under oppressive conditions. The public cherished the conductor and orchestra with a standing ovation and repeated cheers.