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Ingo Metzmacher’s Triumphant Return to Hamburg

01.25.17
Ingo Metzmacher
Hamburger Abendblatt

After more than 15 years, Ingo Metzmacher is back in town as guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Matured, greyed, calm, confident – a regular in the Champions League of orchestras. He conducts a politically conceived program with multiple references to history and conduct. Conduct towards society and our times, politics, fine arts, the will of those in power to dominate discourse and the efforts of the powerless to contradict.  
At the end, after a memorable, exemplary and exhausting concert, Metzmacher is being applauded and celebrated. As much as he seems touched, he also appears vindicated: At this place, with this challenging program, for a dazzling performance. 

For his comeback performance he picked three nonconformists in search of meaning – music from turning points of the 20th century: Webern, Hartmann, Shostakovich. Not exactly repertoire of the Viennese, renowned as the eternal champions of heartfelt tone of superior beauty, but compulsory works for Metzmacher, again and again. The Viennese know and like Metzmacher, and so they oblige with pleasure. Together they have accomplished great things at Salzburger Festspiele in 2009 with Luigi Nono's "Al gran sole". Concerts that are more than the sum of the notes are Metzmacher's specialty.  On that night conductor and orchestra not only proved how musically sensual explorations of marginal situations can be, but they also showed which levels of presence, warmth and brilliance can be achieved within the acoustics of the Great Saal. Even when seated at the fringe of the A block at the orchestra stalls nothing appears forced, sharp or – as it should be at the beginning – too tiptoed. All one hears is chamber music sophistication, brought forward by a hundred soloists: the great art of "less". 

Up to its bitterly militaristic finale, Metzmacher transferred this masterpiece into the world of today. He distrusts all too obviously conveyed pathos and issues a warning against the manically aggressive, through music and its expressive means. More enlightenment could hardly be achieved in a concert these days. Read the rest of the review here (translation)