Beethoven continued

The SSO’s Beethoven piano concerti series with Emmanuel Ax continues. I went to the second on Monday night, when Tippett’s Fantasia concertante on a theme of Corelli for double string orchestra with two violins and one cello soloist preceded the third and fourth concerti.

The live streaming of Wednesday’s repeat of this program is up on youtube at the time of posting. At the end, David Robertson shows he is a man of the people by announcing the State of Origin score.

I’d have been more interested to hear a brief comment about the cancellation of the live video-cast of The Death of Klinghoffer from the Met later this year.

But back to the music.

That is, if I could frame any sensible comment in the time allowed. Suffice to say that it has so far definitely been a memorable event.

Ax hardly requires introduction – even where he takes an approach which is different from what I might have preferred or expected (for example, he saved speed in the last movement of the third concerto for the true finale) you can see why he does it and it works. How can one not be in awe of someone who can play all five concerti like that within 10 days?

I like Robertson’s Beethoven, which is in the main lean and brisk with a rhythmic spring when required. He has drawn some terrific sounds out of the orchestra: most memorably for me, a harmonium-like blend (or am I just thinking of Harmonie) of winds and muted strings in the slow movement of the third, and a kind of low strings growling at one point in the fourth. The perching of the woodwind a row higher than usual (because the horns and trumpets have been put on the floor on each side) has also helped and I expect made a great improvement in the lower half of the stalls where one usually has to take what the woodwind is doing on trust and with a bit of extrapolative imagining. The strings rose above usual form in the Tippett and new leader Andrew Haveron and principal cello Umberto Clerici have both shone in that and at other points.

Tonight I shall go to the final concert, with the fifth concerto supplemented with/complemented by Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. I’m very much looking forward to it.

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