Soprano Rachel Harnisch

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CD review

Curious about all sides - Peter Hagmann NZZ

NZZ-critic Peter Hagmann reviews the new CD's of the Berner Symphonieorchester with Mario Venzago and Rachel Harnisch.

The Berner Symphonieorchester and its chief conductor Mario Venzago have Oberwasser.

If there is a happy orchestra somewhere in Switzerland, then it is probably the Bern Symphony Orchestra. With Mario Venzago, since 2010, there has been a chief conductor and artistic director, who fully identifies with his task and generates high motivation in the orchestra - that there is a specific agreement here after a few moments. Last but not least, this is due to structural movement.

The orchestra has been rejuvenated and about a quarter of its members have joined the band. And the peculiarity here is that, as Venzago explains, a good number of part-time positions have been created, so that musicians with family and those with other interests, for example in the field of chamber music, can be part of it; Today, according to Venzago, 90 posts are distributed among about 120 orchestra members. Also new is a dance band formed in the circle of the orchestra in the spirit of the 1920s; The search for music for this formation is said to have required criminological abilities.

In the foyer of the Kultur-Casino Bern, an informative exhibition in the form of posters gave an insight into the life and work of the composer. And the conclusion in the most recent concert of the Berne Orchestra was the Symphony No. 2 in A major from 1903 - a strangely bulky, yet attractive piece that Brahms marries with Tchaikovsky and carefully searches for new territory in harmony and in rhythm. Strangely enough, it starts with a variation movement, a passacaglia, which, as it should, flows into a technically advanced fugue. After a scherzo that jumbled the three-four-act, a romance followed, in which the tonal qualities of the Berner Symphonieorchester were shown in the brightest light. This sound is light and colorful, which is why there was no trace of kitsch. And refined, in the footsteps of historically informed performance practice, worked with the non-legato, which led to very distinctive mixtures.

Ammann on the one hand, Juon on the other - and in between the first violin concerto by Sergei Prokofiev, which was completed in the revolutionary year of 1917, but maintains a completely spring-like, almost idyllic tone. With her restrained, yet equally sound sound, the young violinist Veronika Eberle was exactly right at the place. She made the cantabile of this melodious concert splendid. And together with Mario Venzago, the Bern Symphony Orchestra let listen to the wealth that prevails in the quiet, how the rhythmic finds its succinctness and how tension can arise. The listener of this imaginatively designed evening could feel addressed very directly. After that there was a good mood.

Naturally, modernity is part of Bern - modernity in the whole breadth of the term. In many concerts of this season, works by Swiss composers are played, such as "Beati pauperes II" by Klaus Huber on the 90th birthday of the composer, the premiere of Olivier Darbellays piece "Distorted" - or now, in the most recent concert, "Boost" by Dieter Ammann. This work in particular showed how music can be both contemporary and catchy at the same time. "Boost" lives on contrasts between a richly populated percussion and the colorful-sounding orchestra - with the percussive of the percussion in the form of the "Bartók-Pizzicatos" connected with a violent string strike moving into the strings, while the singing of the orchestra to those from afar extended sounds of the herd bells out. It was amazing how Venzago and the orchestra got going and how they interrupted the steep eruptions again and again with islands of quiet sounds. Modernism in the whole breadth of the term - this also includes aspiring composers such as Othmar Schoeck, who has long been close to Venzago's heart. These days a CD of the Berner Symphonieorchester will be released with music by Schoeck; The soprano Rachel Harnisch will join the party. Another recording will be published by the German label CPO. It contains works by the Swiss-born Paul Juon (1872-1940), who was active in Berlin for many years and who finally lived in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Today, at best, he is still known by name.