A gloriously engaging Brahms from Stutzmann

The Business Post | Dick O’Riordan


The French-born Stutzmann – world-famous as a contralto, but now equally so as a conductor – had just been revealed as the orchestra’s new principal guest conductor.

The news came as a surprise to many. Stutzmann appeared here only once before when, barely a year ago, she took charge of a heavyweight agenda of Wagner and Mahler, so there were probably many who did not know what to expect with a hefty schedule of Brahms. They did not have to wait long.

Stutzmann’s handling of Brahms’s Concerto for Violin and Cello, a rare enough work here, was gloriously engaging. Her deft handling of the orchestra against the stunning interweaving of sound and moods by Israeli violinist Itamar Zorman and German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich produced a deeply affecting performance.

Securing Stutzmann’s services up to the end of 2019 has really excited RTÉ, not least music supremo Aodán Ó Dubhghaill.

“Nathalie’s performance last year was a clincher,” he says. “It was apparent from the outset that an easy and natural chemistry had developed between her and the orchestra while, on the other side, the audience intuitively sensed this and responded in the warmest terms.”

Stutzmann responded in kind, saying she was truly impressed with her introduction to the orchestra last February.“After just a few minutes of rehearsal, it was immediately clear this was an ensemble of generosity, spirit and real character – an orchestra made of flesh and blood.”

So what can audiences expect? Stutzmann is probably best in describing that. Here is what she told a recent interviewer:

“There are two types of performers, those who strive their whole lives to reach a point which displays to full effect the difficulty of their art – they have their audience. Then there are those who try to make what they do seem effortless – I belong in that category. It is less of a spectacle perhaps, but I prefer that the audience gets to the essence of the music. I don’t want them to stop at their impression of the performance but to lose themselves in the beauty of the music.”

That’s exactly what happened last weekend.