Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heroic Composer

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
in Concert
Riccardo Muti, Music Director
Edo de Waart, Conductor

What William Kinderman, in his magnificent biography of Beethoven, calls "The Heroic Style" was on display at Symphony Center last night.  Beethoven's Third Symphony, the "Eroica", was the main offering and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was up to the challenge under the leadership of conductor Edo de Waart.  It was a pleasure to see Mr. de Waart on the podium for It marked De Waart's first downtown appearance with the Chicago Symphony since 1987, although his association with the orchestra goes back 42 years.

The Eroica performance was thoughtful with each jewel-like movement proffered with beautiful precision even as the whole symphony was driven inexorably to its noble climax in the artfully vibrant variations that make up the final movement.  The terrain surrounding this famous symphony has been explored many times in performance and critical analysis.  I will mention only one aspect on display: the compelling intensity of the continuity of the music.  This music, when played with the musical expertise of the Chicago Symphony, became an intense experience of the composer through time expressing musical joy.  Seldom are moments as sublime as this.
The first half of the concert did not disappoint, opening with the Leonore Overture No. 3 and a truly classic performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major with Radu Lupu as soloist.  This concerto, as with the second and third, is representative of the classical concerto form associated with Haydn and Mozart.   Mr. Lupu, famous for his interpretation of Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Schubert, played with a clarity and precision that brought out the details of Beethoven's early concerto.  The Leonore Overture No. 3 is one of several versions of Beethoven's overture for his only opera, Fidelio.  While he trimmed the overture for inclusion with his opera, this version is much longer as it distills the dramatic themes of the opera in a manner approaching that of a tone poem; a form that later Romantic composers like Lizst would perfect.  This concert once again highlighted the strengths of one of the great orchestras of the world.

Beethoven by William Kinderman. Oxford University Press, 1997 (1995)

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