London’s Royal Festival Hall was Tim Homfray’s destination for the 26 September 2019 concert

This summer the Philharmonia Orchestra ran a four-month festival at London’s Southbank Centre called Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis. Technically, Berg’s 1935 Violin Concerto post-dates the Weimar Republic, which ended in 1933 with the rise of the Nazis; but Berg was of that time.

For this vivid performance, violinist Christian Tetzlaff and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen were very much collaborators. Tetzlaff’s playing was full of character and colour, a sophisticated example of great musical communication. At times he was full-bodied and intense, but he also had a lightness of touch, letting phrases trip away, demonstrating an almost skittish up bow spiccato. The orchestra, faithful to Berg’s instructions, was frequently to the fore, with Tetzlaff as much chamber musician as soloist; he ended the first movement in a halo of horns. He opened the second movement with expressive violence, a passion displayed in gesture as well as playing. The hushed ending was magical and heartbreaking.

The concert opened with three versions of Bach: Hindemith’s ragtime take on the C minor fugue from the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier and Schoenberg’s arrangements of two chorale preludes. It ended with Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler symphony, all played with style and vibrant detail.