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There was a sense that, after an adventurous and successful first night, those programming the festival had sugared the pill with an easy listening extravaganza on the final night which all but obliterated the Second Viennese School from the scene.

Ironically, the orchestra was at its worst in the most familiar works -- the Haydn lacked cohesion, whilst sudden shifts of tempo in the Beethoven seemed to take even the players by surprise. And the final word on the Second Viennese School Weekend? Brahms' Variations on a theme of Joseph Haydn. An unusual choice to say the least -- and there was little to be said for the performance, which once again suffered from vast fluctuations in tempo and any sense of narrative. It was a sad way to end a weekend that had started so promisingly and included many excellent performances. Nor was this attempt at populism rewarded with particularly good audiences in the National Concert Hall. Hopefully this, if nothing else, will serve as a warning the next time around.

All this said, the weekend of celebration and exploration was more than simply a 'worthy' event, giving air to some rarely performed works before putting them back in the cupboard. The opportunity to hear these composers' music in concert demonstrated that it is more than just the application of technique, and perhaps offered us a glimpse of why Schoenberg could never understand those people who called his music modern.

Copyright © 22 February 2002 Samuel A Brown, Dublin, Ireland







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