Above: Violin soloist Glenn Christensen played Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with TMO. Featured image: The Metropolitan Orchestra and Chief Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams. Photo credit: John B Chen.
The fourth concert in TMO’s 2016 season, ‘The Great’ was a substantial undertaking. Its exciting programme consisted of two very well-known works regarded as being great due to their inspiration, structure and impact.
These works were written by two composers considered amongst the greatest of their era and of all time. TMO admirably met the challenge of presenting early nineteenth century works by Beethoven and Schubert in fresh and captivating interpretations.
To begin this concert’s juxtaposition of two great works, TMO collaborated with violinist Glenn Christensen in a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major Opus 61. At all times throughout this work TMO supported the soloist well.
The essence of Beethoven’s uniquely direct rhetoric was delivered through clear realisation of thematic material. Full orchestral textures were satisfyingly blended and Beethoven’s burgeoning Romantic leanings were evident in striking declamations from the orchestra alone.
Violinist Glenn Christensen presented an extremely sensitive and elegant opening movement to this work. Without the hectic bravura often heard, the structure of the violin solo utterances was expressively and at times uniquely outlined. The building blocks of this famous movement were laid down successfully with considerable grace and unhurried reverence.
This work’s slow movement demands an interpretation from soloist and orchestra which maintains beauty and lyricism over a difficult and prolonged expanse. The attempt on this occasion was successful in this regard. It also was the best balanced playing between violin soloist and TMO heard in the work.
The performance of this movement yielded a steady thread of exquisite cantabile voice and an exemplary rendering of authentic Beethoven expansive slow movement fare. As in the remainder of the work, Christensen’s moments reaching to the very high register were gentle yet stunning in their precision.
TMO and Christensen launched themselves out of the central movement’s stillness and into the final rondo movement with instant and great contrast. The theme was joyously characterised and we were treated to some energetic fireworks in the violin elaboration.
Following interval Schubert’s profound Symphony No 9 in C major D944 ‘The Great’ was played with great drama, great control and great respect for Schubert’s architectural and dramatic ambition. The creative concepts and textural variety of the composer’s vision were well promoted. We heard this work’s intricacies and climaxes being well articulated despite the large forces assembled.
From the symphony’s outset and introduction from the horn section there was an air of noble restraint. This continued particularly in TMO’s winds whenever needed throughout. Oboe lines were nicely drawn and held above the rest of the orchestral colour. The oboe parts which feature in the second movement were also steadfast and captivating.
The contrasts in the third movement Scherzo and Trio were superbly handled, making this section of the symphonic journey a crisp, buoyant and satisfying event. TMO showcased themselves and Schubert as progressive artisans in this movement, a highlight of the performance.
At the conclusion of this symphony and the concert TMO showed no cracks in their stamina or artistry. This was yet another satisfying Met Series Concert. The final Met Concert for 2016 at the ABC Centre takes place on November 12. It features TMO’s principal clarinettist in a work by Elena Kats-Chernin. The programme will also include Beethoven’s loved Symphony No 7.