Berliner Zeitung | 23.05.2011 | Ann-Christine Mecke
Stark Contrasts, Strange Rituals
Yutaka Sado conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker
Japanese conductor Yutaka Sado’s Berlin Philharmonic debut began very softly. From me flows what you call Time, Tōru Takemitsu’s esoteric percussion concerto, opens with a lonely flute melody, then the delicate sound of cymbals played by five solo percussionists are heard at different corners of the auditorium. The music shifts as the soloists move to the platform and take their places. This work, which received its world premiere in 1990 in New York, has little in common with conventional solo concertos. It follows “the rules of a prayer”, said the composer. Wind chimes suspended from the ceiling of the Philharmonie are operated by long ribbons in the colours of Tibetan prayer flags. Isolated wind soloists and a saturated string texture reply to the highly variegated sounds of steel drum, vibraphone, bells and other, mostly metallic percussion. Takemitsu restricts his motivic material, allowing it to produce constantly new effects by variations in the tonal colouring. Enigmatic content. It is somewhat disconcerting in a percussion concerto dedicated to time that so little is perceptible of metre and structure. The listener feels rather like a guest at a very foreign ritual: ceremonial acts, whose content remains enigmatic, are united in a fascinating process. The precision with which the five soloists play and interact has the effect of a magical connection – one based on the exacting control of time. From me flows what you call Time is not a virtuoso concerto for athletic drummers, yet it is anything but undemanding for the soloists. Although the complex playing of Raphael Haeger, Simon Rössler, Franz Schindlbeck, Jan Schlichte and Wieland Welzel seems almost improvised, the five Philharmonic percussionists are uncannily coordinated – sensitive and inspired right to the very last tolling of the wind chimes. An evening that began by soothing the ears and soul did not stay in that mode. In Dmitri Shostakovich’s dynamic Fifth Symphony, sounds of great delicacy are juxtaposed with outbursts manifesting almost physical violence. There has been much speculation about who triumphs over whom in the lofty, jubilant finale, about whether the composer in this work was buckling under to Stalin or only adapting his protest to a new musical form. There is no other composer with whom one would be allowed such a straightforward biographical-political interpretation. Yutaka Sado won’t even allow it with Shostakovich. Not waiting until the controversial finale to exploit extremes in the score, he makes its stark contrasts a central feature of his interpretation right from the beginning: piercing sounds and resigned sighs, abrasive strings and quickly fading sounds underline the work’s inherent tensions. Who triumphs over whom? The Philharmonic musicians follow the guest conductor with absolute dedication as they generate despair, tenderness, defiance, pain and sarcasm of overwhelming intensity. The second movement is a feast of soloistic expressiveness on the edge of humour and brutality. The slow third movement nearly ruptures under the weight of built-up tension, while the bitter triumphal march of the finale is only one more form taken by the anguished struggle. In the face of a triumph achieved so painfully, the question of who triumphs here over whom seems almost laughable. Going out of the Philharmonie, our ears were still ringing from the orchestra’s sheer force but, even more, it was the heart and soul that were left stunned by this great concert.
Critics have unanimously hailed Yutaka Sado as one of the most enthralling and charismatic conductors of the new generation. Highlights of the 2011/12 Season include the 12-city tour of Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in Japan in the fall, and return to his long-time collaborators; Orchestre de Pairs, the Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande, BBC Philharmonic, Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Filarmonica ‘900 del Teatro Regio di Torino. In the 2010/11 Season Sado has made his successful debut with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Bavarian State Orchestra. Furthermore, he has conducted Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in a coproduction with the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra in Hyogo, Japan. The long-time assistant of Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa was awarded the most important conductor’s prizes, e.g. the Premier Grand Prix at the 39th International Conducting Competition in Besançon and the Grand Prix du Concours International L. Bernstein Jerusalem. Sado’s strong ties to Leonard Bernstein lead him to Bernstein’s Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo as ‘conductor in residence.’ He also had the privilege to participate in the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. Since 2005 Yutaka Sado is the Artistic Director of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center (HPAC) and of the HPAC’s resident orchestra. The concert hall has become one of the most important concert halls in Japan with approximately 70.000 subscribers. Sado’s degree of popularity in Japan is tremendous, especially due to his appearance as conductor and main host in the “Untitled Concert,” the weekly TV program which was honored “the longest running TV program for classical music” by the Guinness World Records. Next to Japan Yutaka Sado’s career particularly developed in France, first of all, where he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestre Lamoureux in October 1993. Yutaka Sado has been one of the favorite conductors of the Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the other major French orchestras for many years. He possibly is the only conductor who managed to conduct all ‘Big Four’ orchestras in Paris in one season. In Germany, a close collaboration with the DSO Berlin has developed in recent years. Alongside Sado has been guest conducting major German orchestras including the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks München, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Radio Symphony Orchestras in Cologne (WDR), Stuttgart and Freiburg (SWR) and the Gürzenich Orchestra, the Frankfurter Museumsorchester, the Bamberg and Düsseldorf Symphony and the Dresden and Hamburg Philharmonic. In Italy he conducts the orchestras of Santa Cecilia Rome, RAI Torino Orchestra, the Verdi-Symphony Orchestra Mailand and the orchestra of the Maggio Musicale in Florence. In 2010 Sado made his Italian opera debut with Willy Decker’s production of Britten’s PETER GRIMES at the Teatro Regio di Torino. In Switzerland he conducts the Tonhalle-Orchestra Zurich and the Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande, in the UK the BBC Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. CD-productions of Yutaka Sado and the DSO Berlin comprise recordings for AVEX with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with the Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsuji. Sado and Tsujii also produced the Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto with BBC Philharmonic. With the Orchestre Lamoureux he recorded music by Jacques Ibert (Naxos), by Ravel and Chabrier (Erato/Warner) and by Satie (Erato). Yutaka Sado made three exclusive recordings with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France – the first devoted to French repertoire (by Dukas, Bizet, Offenbach), the second to the works of Leonard Bernstein (including Symphony N° 3 Kaddish and the Chichester Psalms with Karita Mattila and Lord Yehudi Menuhin as narrator) and the third one featuring works by Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner. Furthermore, he recorded opera arias with Karita Mattila and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Erato-Warner).
Yutaka Sado in rehearsal with the Berliner Philharmoniker Full-length live concert of 22 May 2011 at The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall
Tōru Takemitsu: From me flows what you call time · Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 / Yutaka Sado, conductor · Berliner Philharmoniker / Rehearsal recorded at the Berlin Philharmonie, 19 May 2011
Yutaka Sado in rehearsal with the Berliner Philharmoniker
Full-length live concert of 22 May 2011 at The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall
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