On November 28, 1977, Christoph von Dohnányi and the
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performed a concert of
three works at the Großer Musikvereinssaal. This performance
was expressly for the cameras, as the remainder of the hall
was empty. The camerawork was typical for the era, cutting
back and forth between close-ups and stationary views, with
very few “pan” shots of the entire orchestra.
First up was Béla Bartók’s concert suite, derived from his 1926
“pantomime,” “The Miraculous Mandarin.” Maestro Dohnányi
(1929 – ) conducted this brutally exciting work with flair and
insight, and the orchestra responded to him magnificently.
Next, I watched the capricious “Burleske for Piano and
Orchestra in D Minor” by Richard Strauss, composed in 1885.
Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder (1946 – ) was the brilliant soloist.
This 20-minute work was in a single movement with four
distinct sections, and featured a prominent part for the
timpanist in direct dialogue with the orchestra.
It’s delightful–filled with humor, and deserves to be better
known. While it’s not quite a concerto, the timpanist begins
and ends this piece, and there were moments of dazzling
virtuosity and lyricism. This was the first time I’d seen
Buchbinder play, and he had full command of the
difficulties in the score.
The final work on the program was Felix Mendelssohn’s
“Symphony No. 3 in A Minor,” also known as the “Scottish
Symphony.” Completed in 1842, it is probably his second
most popular work in this genre, after his “Italian Symphony.”
In large part due to his love for Sir Walter Scott, Mendelssohn
visited Scotland, and his “Symphony No. 3” is a tribute to that
country, along with the “Hebrides Overture.” This four-movement
symphony was also structurally imbued with Romantic imagery,
yet with a strong streak of Classicism. The first movement is
the longest part of the work, and it consists of four distinct
sections, as a kind of “mini symphony” within the whole.
This was my first opportunity to watch Maestro Dohnányi on
the podium, and he led an exciting and dramatic 37-minute
rendition of the symphony, thereby highlighting Mendelssohn’s
impeccable craftsmanship. As the grandson and erstwhile
student of famed composer/pianist, Ernő Dohnányi,
Christoph von Dohnányi has an impressive musical pedigree,
and his achievements include a 20-year tenure as Music Director
of the Cleveland Orchestra. Therefore, this DVD of him while in
his late forties was interesting and historically valuable. For
the late 1970’s, the audio engineering was quite good, and
I can wholeheartedly recommend this 86-minute concert on
the EuroArts label.