miércoles, 18 de enero de 2017



HAMBURG — Of course there was Beethoven. After all, what better way to conclude the long-delayed opening concert of theElbphilharmonie concert hall here than with the jubilant “Ode to Joy”? It’s a choral classic, but Wednesday’s scintillating concert, starring the NDR Symphony Orchestra, now renamed the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, opened with the slender, pliable tone of a single oboe — the instrument to which other players tune in halls around the world.

The conductor Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra acknowledging the final applause after the opening concert at the Elbphilharmonie hall in Hamburg, Germany, on Wednesday night.CreditChristian Charisius/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To inaugurate this dazzling hall, nestled inside an $800 million glass structure set atop an old brick warehouse overlooking the port here, the conductor Thomas Hengelbrock assembled a forward-looking program. Taking as its motto a line from Wagner’s “Parsifal” — “Here time becomes space” — the concert linked fragile chamber performances and flashy orchestral tours de force spanning 400 years of music history into a riveting narrative. Its proud protagonist: the hall itself.
Depending on where you sat in the tiered, in-the-round auditorium, you had to crane your neck to see where the first sounds were coming from when the oboist Kalev Kuljus, standing on a high balcony, intoned the first rhapsodic phrases of Britten’s “Pan,” from “Six Metamorphoses After Ovid.” His penetrating and clear tone helped to concentrate your ear on the sonic roller coaster that followed, beginning with the metallic aureole of Dutilleux’s “Mystère de l’instant.”
From there, early and recent music alternated fluidly, with individual performers placed high in the farthest rows. The countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, elegantly accompanied by the harpist Margret Köll, sang music written by Emilio de’ Cavalieri and Antonio Archilei for a 1589 Florentine court wedding, his zesty voice effortlessly carrying across the 2,100-seat auditorium.
The dark, growling rumbles of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s “Photoptosis,” in turn, gave way to the five-vocalist Ensemble Praetorius singing Praetorius’s “Quam Pulchra Es.” That work was answered by the searing intensity of Rolf Liebermann’s “Furioso,” with its lightning-fast string scales and luscious, broad melodies. Another Baroque aria, “Amarilli mia bella,” by Giulio Caccini, offered quiet reflection before the jaunty finale from Messiaen’s “Turangalîla-Sinfonie,” its crisp rhythms and fluorescent tone colors vivid and clean.

The conductor Thomas Hengelbrock holding up the score of Wolfgang Rihm’s “Reminiszenz,” which had its premiere during the opening night of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.CreditChristian Charisius/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The concert’s second half included the Prelude to “Parsifal”; the premiere of an arresting, broody orchestral song cycle, “Reminiszenz,” by Wolfgang Rihm; and the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. The soloist in Rihm’s rangy, difficult new work was Pavol Breslik, whose melting tone easily made you forget that the part had initially been intended for the star tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Another cancellation led to the appealing Hanna-Elisabeth Müller’s taking on the soprano part in the Beethoven symphony, alongside the alto Wiebke Lehmkuhl and the bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, sounding somewhat brittle. The combined NDR and Bavarian radio choirs brought home a thrilling “Ode to Joy.”
If you were seated in different sections of the hall for the two performances (the program was repeated on Thursday night), the sound’s warmth varied. The Wagner could have been helped by a greater sense of mysticism: the acoustics cast a clinical light on occasional imperfections. (It was just as unforgiving of a visitor’s ill-timed sneeze.) But on the whole, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra revealed itself as a first-rate group, possessing a radiantly confident brass section and strings capable of producing a toffee-rich tone.
The man behind the sound is Yasuhisa Toyota, one of the world’s most sought-after acousticians. In Hamburg, his work was prepared for by the building’s architects, the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, which added a double-insulation layer around each of the two concert halls to prevent the intrusion of foghorns and other city noise — something New Yorkers, used to the periodic grumble of subway trains below several performance spaces, might appreciate.

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