Igor Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto from 1931 makes it impressively clear that dryness can be sensual, that distance can be attractive and that elegant coolness should not be confused with harsh cold. Provided that a violinist who is as familiar with all the violin literature as Frank Peter Zimmermann plays on this evening in the Isarphilharmonie with the Munich Philharmonic under the baton of conductor Dima Slobodeniuk, who stepped in for the ailing Mikko Frank. Then it flashes and tingles, then in the best moments of this rhythmically diverse and tricky piece, what Stravinsky described as “champagne extra dry” emerges as the goal of his musical orientation at the time.
Eight wind instruments from the Munich Philharmonic previously played Stravinsky’s Octet from 1923, a pilot work of neoclassicism, oblique, cheeky and concise, yet precisely balanced. Because Stravinsky himself once conducted this piece, Slobodeniuk also conducted it flexibly here. So the audience was well prepared for the violin concerto, which avoids everything one would otherwise expect from a virtuoso performance: nothing self-confessed, no romantic cantilenas, no expressive rubati, no exhibitionist exhibition of violin artistry in cadenzas, but an airy, elastic concerto grosso mood and constant vigilance and readiness for dialogue. This requires precise coordination and rehearsal time, which may have been too short for the opening toccata. Nevertheless, the two aria movements developed their unmistakable poetry thanks to Zimmermann’s great violin artistry. And the capriccio finale stormed along as happily as it was witty. Roaring applause and the G minor fugue from Bach’s 1st violin solo sonata so fast and Stravinsky-like cool that only fascinated amazement remained.
After the break, Dima Slobdeniuk drove Robert Schumann’s 4th symphony in front of him, so to speak, in a supple double-quick pace. That had something, but without finding the soul and heart of the multi-layered piece.