NRC, 11. November 2022

Top conductor Haenchen is analytical and swinging at the NN

In three weeks’ time, the Noord Nederlands Orkest (NNO) will welcome two new permanent conductors. Hartmut Haenchen (79), a familiar face in the Netherlands through his leadership of Dutch National Opera (DNO) and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in the eighties and nineties, will be guest conductor as of this season. Norwegian Eivind Gullberg Jensen (50) will become chief conductor on December 1. Remarkable: Haenchen is there three to four weeks per season and Gullbert Jensen six – not much for a chef.
In a sold-out Oosterpoort, the management of the NNO overtook Haenchen on Thursday with “incredible pride”. Haenchen – who had already been naturalized as a Dutchman in 1995 – praised the ‘chemistry’ with the orchestra in fluent ABN and explained with a modest witticism the remarkable choice for Verdi’s Requiem (a funeral mass) as the main part of the festive concert: “It will be my age.”
The contracting of a heavyweight like Haenchen, experienced at the best opera houses and symphony orchestras from Japan to Berlin, is strategically a masterstroke of the NNO. That Verdi was on the first program was indeed surprising – but for a different reason. Haenchen led a Verdi opera at the Dutch National Opera only once. He is known as a specialist in 19th-century German repertoire. During his next concerts with the NNO he will perform Wagner, in March he will conduct Bruckner with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.

uttered terror
The Requiem, dedicated to the victims in Ukraine, offered excitement, drama and tranquility. The undiminished analytical Haenchen conducts more loosely than 25 years ago, sometimes even swinging. He demanded professional agility from the large North Netherlands Concert Choir (more than eighty trained amateur singers). The choir often realized this excellently – thanks to excellent preparation by choir director Louis Buskens. In ‘Sanctus’ there was some vocal fatigue in some vocal groups, but this was more than compensated by empathy and passion.

Haenchen’s approach was typical of his probing seriousness. You understand every choice – sometimes from the structure of the music, sometimes from the content of the text. As a result, it came across as fresh: ‘Christe’ sounded more human than ‘Kyrie’, the rhythmically muttered fear of the Judge on Judgment Day was nervously shifted to a higher gear.

The usually well-mixing soloist quartet consisted of great voices. Soprano Annemarie Kremer provided a beautiful ‘Libera Me’ with her clocking top register, mezzo Marina Prudenskaya did not excel in diction, but in drama. Tenor Azer Zada stood out for the elegant tenderness of the ‘Ingemisco’. The most memorable link was Tareq Nazmi: a bass like a bell, so low and carrying that you could hear his basement voice in ‘Rex Tremendae’ roaring through the ensemble. In the ‘Confutatis Maledictis’ you would rather have crawled under your chair.

Mischa Spel

Ganze Rezension im Original (NL)