(photo credit: )
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Helmuth Rilling
Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv
A reputable figure on the vocal music scene, Helmuth Rilling has been the IPO's champion of vocal music for the last 30 years. This indeed calls for a celebration, but it may also be a good chance to put this long collaboration under scrutiny. On the one hand, few will deny the superb quality of Rilling's choir and the authority of his musical personality. On the other hand, I usually find his readings rather mechanical and unmoving. And when it comes to early music, such as Bach's, this becomes even more evident, especially when he is compared with the more vibrant, up-to-date interpreters.
Unfortunately, all these elements were evident this concert. Bach's "Magnificat" was mostly boring, and failed to enchant despite the accomplished choral singing. The four soloists were also not worthy of singling out in this particular piece.
As expected, things improved considerably on the second part, featuring Mozart's oft-performed Requiem. With a larger choir and a good feel for the music, Rilling led a powerful rendition which was much more convincing than the Bach. The major problem here was not the reading, but rather the version: I regret to note that Robert Levin's reconstruction of the Requiem, performed here at its IPO debut, falls far behind Suessmayr's traditional, well-known completion of the piece. In all: a decent reading of a mostly great music, but nothing to die for.